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07 March 2016

Dear Recruiting Stereotyper, please stop

Your profile indicates you have been contracting recently, therefore you will only be interested in contract work then? 
Incorrect.
This post is aimed at those people who don't recognise that people go through lifestyle changes and there are sometimes times where the balance of priorities between the attractiveness of contracting Vs permanent shifts in response to family and personal needs.
I worked in a permanent job for 5 years until l was laid off. I worked in another permanent job for 3 years until the company hit financial difficulties. Then I worked in another permanent job for over 6 years until I was laid off. Permanent work was fine, although the career progression was limited due to lack of growth in the organisations I was working for and often going from one hiring freeze to another.
During the last job, when I was told my job was likely to be no longer required I was given more than 6 months notice of the redundancy and during this time was given support to look for new work outside the organisation. That was in 2006 and despite my work being extended I had still not found any local work after more than 7 months of looking. It actually took 12 months before I found any work lasting more than a few weeks.
Sadly, and to the significant detriment of family life, I had to travel 400 miles to find work and leave my family behind. This practice continued on and off for 6 years. The 6 years was incredibly hard work at a huge personal cost. I travelled across the UK from Newcastle, London, Norwich, and in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I had commutes which were regularly 6+ hours away from my home base and I had 6 years of living in hotels 4 nights a week. I did 12 hour days and a working week which started at 4am on a Monday to catch a flight and return at midnight on a Friday. Welcome to the lifestyle of contracting. Probably not ideal if you enjoy spending time with your family as I did.
I had started self-employment in 2001 on a part time basis. I enjoyed it. However as a lifestyle if you do not have a large local client base, it comes a quite a social price. Also perhaps in later life if your health is not great, maybe it's not necessarily the best choice either. 
There are lots of prejudices in recruitment. I got a lot of it in 2006 along the lines of  you have no experience in banking therefore you can't apply for a job in that sector which contributed to the problem. Don't mean to be harsh on the banking sector but was it the experienced people or the inexperienced people who got the banking sector into a mess?
I travelled to where the work was in order to get the experience and rather than trailing my family around Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and England it made sense for me to take contracts because permanent jobs would have been far too disruptive, expensive, stressful and unsettling for them. I put my family first and myself second. 
I'm happy to be in contracting. I'm also happy to be permanent if the right opportunity came my way. I would tend to be fussier about the permanent jobs though as I see that as a far long term commitment. I'm also rather disappointed in permanent salaries which certainly in Edinburgh appear to have stood still for 10 years whereas contract rates have moved with the market. People offering permanent jobs need to accept that people can choose whether to be permanent or contract and there are pros and cons to each approach. It isn't as simple as contracting for ever or permanent for ever. If contracting gets attacked by HMRC, people will move into permanent work. If permanent salaries become uncompetitive or the career opportunities aren't there or there is no local work, people will turn to contracting. This is not only why recruiters shouldn't be prejudiced but also why there should be a flexible and balanced workforce incorporating both sides rather than a dwindling number of contractors as a result of the government being contractor unfriendly. Contractors provide flexibility and specialist skills. In response to the increasingly rapid changes in the market, how can you scale a team quickly from scratch if you have to wait 3 months for permanent people to hand in their notices from their current jobs?
So dear recruiter, don't look at my CV and be prejudiced. The idea of my having been a contractor for the last few years doesn't automatically extend all the way to retirement. People change, lifestyles change and needs change. If I apply for a permanent job it's because the job is of interest to me. If it wasn't of interest, I wouldn't bother. So why are you asking me if it's right for me? I've already made that judgement thanks. I was a single father for a year and if you are applying stereotypes then think of the woman who has a high flying career as a contractor then has a family and wants stability and being based in one place. Would you be questioning her change of lifestyle or is it none of your business really? If a woman takes a career break for a family do you think she might do the same again for child #2 and exclude her based on past career lifestyle?
I actually want a career, stability, continuity, benefits and being in a place long enough to make a long standing difference and make friends over a period of years. I have been able to do this to some extent as a contractor as I've maintained contacts between contracts and I run into the same people regularly and they recommend me for work, but it's harder going. If I had the choice in 2006 with a young family then - I wouldn't have gone into contracting at all, I didn't have the choice - there were no permanent jobs after looking for a year.
Please bear in mind that when I apply for a job it's because I find the job interesting and relevant for a variety of reasons and that it fits in with my career and lifestyle going forward. What I did in the past is just that, we can't change the past but we can change the future. 
So when you replied, as you did this morning "As it says on the advert Craig, they are permanent positions which I guess would not be of interest to you as your CV/profile looks very much like that of a contractor." I would like you to please respect my necessary lifestyle decisions in the past and my choices for the future rather than your prejudices.
Original article at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dear-recruiting-stereotyper-please-stop-craig-cockburn please also feel free to comment there
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