Contract Work-Take It Seriously

Some might think of contract work as an extra pay check, but you should take it a lot more seriously than that.  You might even want to read my posting from earlier in the year titled, Non-Compete Laws, The Ugly Part of Contract Work.

I recently got a ping from the Doostang blog about this topic and felt it was important enough to revisit.  There are all kinds of laws, non-compete to name one, and cautions that go along with this type of work and with so many people still unemployed many more might be signing up for contract work than ever did before.  Take caution and then reap the rewards of working for yourself!

Here are some great tips from Doostang about negotiating a freelance contract.

1. “Write it down: First and foremost, whenever you negotiate a contract with an employer, be absolutely sure to put all terms down in writing. If you instead opt to commit to something verbally, you run the risk of having an employer change the terms on you, or conveniently remembering them in a different way.

2. Agree to a Price Upfront: When you discuss project details with an employer, it’s important to discuss compensation at the outset. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through the job to bring it up – by that point you might already be too embroiled in the work to easily get out of it if an employer refuses to compensate you properly. And never, under any circumstances, hand over work without first agreeing on the value of your efforts.

3. Set a Date: Negotiate a date on which you will be paid in full – and write this down in the original contract. That way, you hold an employer accountable, and if they fail to hold up their end of the bargain, you can pursue the next necessary course of action. If you don’t set a date, you give the employer the opportunity to continue pushing off payment later and later, which keeps you in a state of limbo and prolongs an already unhealthy business relationship.

4. Procure a Retianer Fee: After you have set a price and a pay date, require that your employer pay you a retainer fee. This is an amount of money that an employer pays you upfront in order to secure your services. Even once you draw up a contract with an employer, you can still run into a tricky situation at the end of your business relationship: your employer may claim that you did not live up to the terms of your end of the bargain, or may lack the finances to pay out to you in the end. A retainer fee ensures that you do see at least some of the money for your work.

5. Understand the Time Commitment: It’s important to have as thorough understanding of the project as possible, at least to a point where you know how much time you will be spending on it. Why? Several reasons. Some people may wish to negotiate pay based on an hourly rate. If you originally underestimate how much time a project will take you, it may be difficult to go back and convince your employer of the time that the work actually took, and of how much you truly deserve to be paid. It’s also imperative to know how much time you need to devote to the project so that you manage your time well. Getting the work in on time is built into your part of the contract, and failure to do so may delay or nullify payment. Finally, understanding time constraints can be helpful so that you can convey this information to the employer.

6. Understand the Project: A nice segue from the discussion on time commitment, you must understand the project you are undertaking, and so should your employer. If you are asked to complete one thing, make sure that this is the thing that you deliver in the end. This will help keep you on track, as well as lessen the likelihood that an employer will claim that you did not provide the work you were supposed to, thus ensuring that you don’t run into unnecessary issues when it comes to getting your paycheck.

What did you do today?  Will you be using these tips?

P.S. Thanks again to the Doostand bloggers for these tips!

Full Time + Part Time Is Not Taboo

Previously it may have been assumed that if someone was working a part time job while being employed full time, they may be disengaged.  I’ve never felt this to be true because as far as I’m concerned, as long as your extra curricular activities don’t intervene with your day time job, what you do outside of work is your own business.

It seems that more people are coming around to the same way of thinking.  I think that this is in part due to the current economy.  I am sure that I am not the only one who will never again allow my resume to sit unattended for months and years, not update my LinkedIn profile, and not connect with my new networks and connections until I need their help again.   The networks and part time jobs people have generated during their unemployment will remain safety blankets in the case of another emergency.

The article, Double Life of the American Worker, profiles five people.  These people range from CEO and president to marketing specialist and hold such basic second jobs as ice hockey referee and Starbucks barista.  What’s the point?  Well, they are exploring their other passions and hobbies!  You might think that a CEO of a company is wasting his or her time by refereeing an ice hockey game but to that person it’s a great use of time.

Good customer service is nothing to take for granted so why discourage your hard working employee from working a few extra hours a week and perfect his or her pitch while selling some latte’s or encouraging some customers to sign up for a store specific credit card?  I will guarantee that regardless if that person reaches some kind of milestone or goal within or outside the four walls of your organization, he or she will be that much more energized to see what else they can accomplish.

So I urge every employer not to discourage, but rather celebrate the fact that your employee is doing something more.  Without extra curricular activities, people would not be volunteering, joining PTA’s and furthering their education.

What did you do today?

P.S. Here is a link to the article I mentioned above, Double Life of the American Worker.

Non-Compete Laws, the Ugly Part of Contract Work.

Now that you have your resume all ready to be shown off, perhaps you are considering contract work.  With the growing amount of unemployed folks and a bigger desire to become self employed the Non-Compete Legislation is being revised.

In a nutshell, the new law would favor employees who desire to leave or who have left their employer.  With the economy still in the dumps, those of us who are required to sign non-competes find ourselves in a pickle.  Imagine a scenario where you have worked at a company for the majority of your career, and upon leaving, you realize at some point you signed an agreement that states that you are not allowed to work, for over a year, within the industry you know most about.  Seems a little unfair doesn’t it?  Well, luckily this new legislation would protect you, as said company would need to pay for any time, past one year, while you are barred from working for a competitor.

What about self-employment?  A number of people I know are freelancing, or have started their own businesses in an effort to make ends meet.  What if they keep in contact with contacts they have made in their previous job?  Well, your previous employer could potentially take you to court.

In a time where a lot of us may be signing up for contract work, non-competes come into play a lot more frequently.  We are ready to take any job in our field and unfortunately (and even inadvertently) sometimes breach a previously signed contract.

Here are some of the types of provisions that an employer may include in your employment agreement or in a separate agreement:

  • Non Competition Agreement
  • Non Solicitation of contacts developed while employed with the previous employer;
  • Non Solicitation of former colleagues that remain employed by your former employer
  • Confidentiality Agreement
  • Agreement not to Misappropriate Trade Secrets
  • Agreements Assigning Intellectual Property Developed to the Former Employer

An attorney with whom I spoke recommends that where possible; have the contract reviewed prior to the time it is signed, typically upon hiring.  Sometimes, contracts are negotiable, egregious provisions can be stricken, etc.  Not all contracts are provided on a “take or leave it” basis, particularly if an employment agreement was preceded by a term sheet, or oral promises that did not include some or all of the foregoing provisions.

Although you might have signed a non-competition agreement upon hiring, in many instances, you might be in a position to negotiate a favorable severance agreement or separation agreement, depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding your departure.  Where a severance or separation agreement, the employee has an opportunity to supplant the employment agreement and replace it with new terms insofar as non-competition and non-solicitation are concerned.

One more thing to think about if you do contract work, you should clarify whether you are working as an employee of that company or are you acting as an independent contractor.  Your rights may be and typically are very different.  If you are considered an employee (regardless of whether the employer labels you an independent contractor), you may be nevertheless entitled to unemployment benefits, and be permitted to sue under the Wage Act, entitling you to triple damages and attorney’s fees for late payment of wages, among other protections.

If you are looking for an anecdote, here you go: A friend of mine introduced me to a business attorney at a Boston based law firm.  She is currently pending litigation with a previous contract employer who is withholding commissions based on allegations of violation of the non-compete.  My friend shares, “I had been laid off for several months and was frustrated with the job market.  I jumped at the contract offer with little consideration for the legal mumbo-jumbo in the contract.  I will not make that mistake again.  I will not proceed with any employment offer without a proper review of my contract by an attorney.  Many headaches and sleepless nights could have been avoided.”

What’s the lesson, read your contracts!  I am awful at this and need to take my own advice.

I look forward to your personal stories on this issue!

What did you do today?

P.S. Of course you know that I am not an attorney so please consult someone who is, in order to find out more about your particular situations.

What did you do…after graduation? Part I

With graduation right around the corner I am sure that a lot of us are hoping that we can land our next opportunity sooner rather than later.  I decided to do a little research about the top 5 industries that are in our back yard and offer ideas about how to get your way into the job that fits your interests.  Also, I have looked into answering the “what keeps you in Boston?” question in an intelligent and unexpected way, thank you mom for the idea!

After comparing a few websites I have come up with my own list of the top 5 industries in Massachusetts:

1. Biotechnology- With all of these grads from schools such as Northeastern, Harvard and BU entering their first real job after graduation you may have a lot of competition.  However, getting into a training or entry level position could be your way in!

2. Pharmaceutical- Genzyme is expanding and you should expand your search!  Every company needs marketers and sales teams!  Entry level is not always the worst title.

3. Technology- There are a lot of MIT grads to compete with but the IT sector is not one you should overlook.  Every company needs computers and tech’s so this is one industry that will not go away.

4. Financial Services- There are your PWC’s, State Street’s, Deloitte’s, etc.  Too many financial services companies to name means a lot of opportunity!  With the economy slowly but surely rebounding should mean that these institutions are hiring new employees.  Yes, sometimes it is harder to get your foot in the door because a lot of the promoting gets done within the company but with so many options, you can’t go wrong.

5. Education- With so many universities, 52 institutions of higher education in the metropolitan area to be exact, there is no way that the education sector would not be in my top 5.  Whether you are looking to further your education or work in the education sector there are more than enough opportunities for you to choose from.  You can begin by volunteering at one of these institutions or looking for part time work as an assistant.  The best perk?  A lot of the times you could get a discount on the price of a course you might be interested in!

Still want more info?  Check out the Best cities for 2010 grads article from Career Builder, Boston is number 5…and there is your intelligent answer.  Why WOULDN’T you want to be in a city that has so much opportunity!?!

What did you do today?

Part Time Work, Not as Bad as it Gets

I’ve talked a lot about volunteering and how it can allow you to add skills to your resume as well as another “job” on your resume.  This time I’d like to talk about part time work. It shouldn’t solely be viewed as something that will fill your time but also a new way to connect to new people who may have an “in” in an industry you are interested in.

So far the two part time jobs I’ve held since graduating with my bachelors haven’t been anything glamorous.  However, I have met people who I still keep in touch with and who have kept me in touch with openings within their companies.  Not too shabby!  One day I hope to return the favor and put them in touch with someone I know.  The point is, people who work part time aren’t always undergrads, retirees, or…unemployed.

An article I read from Doostang highlights these same points. The big point it makes is about creating a smoother transition from no work to full time work and getting more experience.  Read through the Why You Should Consider Part-Time Work article and see if you agree with me and the Doostang team.

P.S. I had posted this article earlier on Jobs.Ideas.Networking, check out some other links I posted.

What did you do today?

From Contract to Full Time

To piggy back off yesterdays topic of “Recruiters: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” I wanted to talk more about the contract positions that some of us may be placed into.  I don’t think anyone aspires to have a “When will they do away with this position?” question looming above their heads.  So, what can you do to make your contract/part time position become a full time job and prove to those around you that they cannot do without your help and experience?

The steps are very similar to landing the actual job.  Boston.com’s Advice section, under Jobs, had Tom Egan from Veritude put together the following 5 tips for making a temporary job permanent:

1. Know the Business: You should approach this position just like any other.  Get to know as much about the every day tasks as you would a full time job.  The more you know, the harder it will be for the company to lose you!

2. Understand the Culture: It is inevitable to not get a feel for the culture while you are learning about the business and company.  Find out who the big players are and who should be your number one contact in the case that you need help with your projects.

3. Show Flexibility and Initiative: The more involved you are in various aspects of the business the more people you will interact with.  These are the people who may play a big role in you staying or leaving.  You will also show that you are interested in the company and what it does.  Don’t mope around waiting for the day you are let go, that day will come that much quicker if you do.

4. Tap Your Staffing Company: Here is where the recruiting agency comes into play again.  The management may be talking to the recruiters to let them know about your progress and if you express your interest to both parties your chances of being offered a full time job are that much higher!

5. Adopt a Team Mentality: The more people you collaborate with and speak with the bigger your network will be. With a bigger network you may be given more visibility within the company.

Final word?  Network!  Whether while looking for work or in a new job. Keep building your community!

And finally, speaking of community…my readership, all thanks to boston.com grew to over 1000 readers in these last couple of days!

My blog was mentioned on the front page and I could not be more thrilled! I wonder if this is what Malcolm Gladwell would consider a “Tipping Point.”  Thank you all VERY much for reading and all of your support.  I’ll definitely be printing this out and putting it into a photo album.

And as if things could get even better, I got my Inbound Marketing Certification from Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University!

What did you do today?

Part Time Work

We are back to gloomy weather but I hope your spirits are still up.

Today I started my part time job and I love it.  It’s retail, it’s fashion, it’s LOFT! That is the newly re-branded name of Ann Taylor Loft.

My parents and I don’t seem to see eye to eye on this one but here are my reasons for part time employment.

1. First and foremost, any extra cash I cam make on top of unemployment will actually allow me to save money.

2. When I began looking for part time jobs after being laid off my big challenge was that I had been in corporate America to long and didn’t have any “relevant” experience and was simply over qualified. Thankfully the Loft took a chance on me and I plan on keeping this job even after I find full time employment because if I am in this situation again, I will have recent and relevant retail experience.

3. I am stretching my skill set. There have been a number of companies that I have been interested in that were looking for visual merchandisers and I could only stretch my current skills so much…but at the end of the day I had not worked in a true retail environment since my days at Abercrombie 9 years ago!

4. It’s fashion!  How can I dislike that?

So as I begin applying to today’s batch of jobs I can broaden my searches.   My last words…each job is what you make of it and even part time work can pay off in your full time work search.

What did you do today?