This is from a contractor who is the first contractor at a client’s.
I am working for a local Government IT department. It is only my second contract.
However, I am the first contractor here and they are making it obvious that I am not welcome.
I didn‘t become an IT contractor to be hated and to spend every day as an object of everyone‘s contempt.
Never Had a Contractor
The trouble is that as they have never had a contractor before they expect me to be much more knowledgeable than them especially ‘at the money you‘re getting’ as they tell me.
It‘s not just my co-workers, it‘s the Project Leaders and Project Managers too.
It was the Development Manager‘s decision to bring me in.
Every time I ask someone a question they always seem to answer ‘I thought you would know that’.
Less IT Experience Than Them
However, I only have 3 years experience myself. Some of them have been at the same site using the tools and languages there for 10 years or more/They know how things are done there inside out.
They also know the systems and have the business knowledge and I have to ask them questions.
It‘s all getting on top of me and I‘m thinking of quitting. It is a 6-month contract and I‘m only 6 weeks into it.
Have you come across this before Dr. McLaughlin?
What‘s your advice?
Dr.McLaughlin’s Contractor Surgery
Anna, I HAVE come across this before.
I have worked in more than 20 contracts including two where I was the first ever contractor.
I‘ve also worked for a local authority, although I wasn‘t the first ever IT contractor there.
I‘m very sympathetic to your plight.
Quit the Contract
You have several options.
First you could just quit. It depends if you are confident that you could get something else. Things are improving, but it is still a difficult old market out there.
Look for Another Contract
The second option that you have is to stay there while looking for another contract.
That way the money can continue to come in, even while you are looking.
There‘s nothing like being continuously being in work.
Educate Permanent Employees About Contractors
The third option is to try and stick it out and just ignore the comments.
I found that the comments gradually wilted away over time. It‘s completely unlikely that they will still be making the same old comments in month 5 that they were making in month 1.
You could also try to educate them a bit as well.
What they are describing, and what they were expecting, was more of a consultant than a contractor.
Tell them the difference between an IT contractor and a consultant.
More Secure Jobs
Tell them that you being there helps secure their jobs.
Companies, and local authorities, normally hire the basic amount of staff that they need for normal conditions. However, when some extra work comes up, then they often hire contractors.
They don‘t hire extra employees because they don‘t need them after the extra work is finished.
Saves Permanent Employees’ Jobs
The more contractors that they hire the safer the jobs of the employees.
When a downturn comes and they need to chop something off the bottom line, then it is the contractors who will go first.
If there are no IT contractors there, then it will have to be some of the employees.
Ask them what happened during the last downturn and whether any of their numbers was laid off.
Of course some contractors are consultants and are paid even more money. However many of them are employee substitutes doing much the same work but for a set period rather than forever.
The extra risk they are taking means that they get paid more.
Also, point out to them, that if IT contracting was abolished it would be an option that was no longer open to them, if they ever needed to make a lot of money quickly.
It is important also not to bite back after one of their ‘smart‘ comments either.
Stay While Looking for Other Contract
Bide your time and you will see that most of the decent ones will come over to accept you, isolating the hard-nosed ones who never will.
If I were you I‘d combine options two and three, i.e. stay there while looking for another contract.
If one comes up, that‘s well and good.
However, even if it doesn‘t, you‘ll almost certainly find that you are at the worst of it now and that things will get gradually better.
Being the first contractor at a site is not much fun but it gradually improves as they get used to you.
“Anna” as you pointed out this is your first contract and unfortunately this is what contracting is all about. You will always be reminded that you’re better paid and that you “should know more” because of this.
This is not why we are contractors but it comes with the territory, you have a skill that is lacking on site so make it work for you – prove your co-workers wrong by adding value to the project you’re working on, they will will soon see you as part of the team and accept that people like you are needed to move things along.
Don’t quit – the grass isn’t greener further along and it doesn’t get easier, just keep at it and hone your skills!