I’ve been earning a boatload of cash as a contractor, in control of my own destiny. So what on earth could make me wake up one day and decide to go permanent?
I was a dyed-in-the-wool contractor. The money was great (obviously), but also the potential for work, the absence of HR nonsense and the opportunities to work with some really great people on some huge projects. I’d contracted for about ten years and not once had I even entertained the thought of going permanent.
Then I got a gig with Adaptive Lab. Two contracts later, and I’ve decided to join them as a permanent member of their service design team.
“Go permanent?!” I hear you cry. “But why?”
First, let’s examine the contractor life. (Well, mine, at least.)
What’s great about contracting
- Being brought in to solve a problem.
- Getting to work with some really clever people (and learning from them).
- Bringing a fresh new perspective with you that helps clients see new ways to solve the problem.
- No HR fuss - it’s pretty binary; you’re either renewed or you’re not.
- Holidays when you feel like it (and as many as you like).
- And did I mention the cash is great?
What’s not great about contracting
- Seeing the same mistakes, over and over again, with no authority to do anything about it.
- Leaving behind the really great people you’ve been working with and having to build new relationships on the next contract.
- Feeling under pressure to know what to do all the time.
- Having to take time out to do any personal development or training.
- Not taking holidays because paying for a holiday and losing your day rate is too much to bear.
- And 10% rate cuts - you’re a cost, not an asset.
And it’s really these six things that made me think more seriously about a permanent gig.
I’ve never really known what I want to be when I grow up. As a result my career has taken a left-at-the-traffic-lights approach, changing direction on a fairly regular basis as I discovered something that sounded fun or interesting. From being a personal assistant, to selling training courses, to beauty therapist, to project analyst, to business architect; if I were to describe myself using traditional role titles, I’d run out of room. I’m a hybrid and proud of it.
But over the years I’ve seen a pattern in the type of work I’ve been pursuing and the elements of that work that make me feel good. (Hint: it’s about designing the right thing in the right way for the user.)
A stroke of luck
In 2015, I worked alongside a service design firm for a bank, overhauling their commercial customer onboarding experience. As it turns out, it’s one of the luckiest contracts I’ve had. Just over a year after finishing up, one of those service designers got in touch and suggested I speak with Adaptive Lab about a service design contract he’d heard about.
Well, I’m not a service designer, at least not on paper. But Adaptive Lab saw through the job titles to the potential. I like that in a company.
Well, it’s pretty simple really. I want to make a difference to people’s lives. To work on projects that have the customer at heart. To know that every piece of work I do has a purpose.
And that’s where Adaptive Lab comes in. (I’m afraid I’m going to go a bit gushy here, apologies.)
There are five things that make life at Adaptive Lab stand out for me.
- I’ve felt like an essential and valued part of the team, even as a contractor. There’s no obvious difference between permies or contractors; it’s all one big family.
- It feels safe to say “I need help” or “I don’t know”. Everyone is really supportive and shares their experience to help get through a sticky spot.
- The work/life balance goes well beyond the ability to work from home a day or so a week - the office is full of dogs, toys, music and team lunch every Friday. Some people work four days so that they can pursue other interests, others work abroad and visit the office once or twice a month.
- They want the best people … and they want to help them be the best. Knowledge, best practice, goof ups - shared across all disciplines to help everyone do a great job. Outside interests, training courses and developmental sessions are actively encouraged and financially supported.
- And finally, they’re committed to designing the right thing in the right way. They are working on some amazing things; future vision work, beta business launches, disruptive products, wholesale service redesign and more. All with the user at heart.
So, why did I choose to go permanent then?
I’ll get to work on great projects, in an environment where it’s ok to not know it all, with some incredible people, where I’m supported to grow and develop, and where I can have real impact. And I won’t have to go looking for any of it; everything is at my fingertips with Adaptive Lab. That’s worth more to me than a day rate.