Say Yes to Contracting

niharika-profileMs. Niharika Chaturvedi is a Senior Consultant (IT Banking Contract division) at Robert Walters.

In this article by Niharika, she talks about why jobseekers should be open to contracting jobs and on how it can broaden one’s career path as well.Singapore’s successful positioning as an attractive destination has led numerous international banks to base their operations and IT infrastructure here. More often than not, an organisation’s strategy to set up its new team would include hiring permanent resources, as well as outsourcing specific operations to various IT services companies and independent contractors.

A contractor is a specialist in a specific area who is hired for a fixed term to complete an allocated task. Because these people are professionals in their area of expertise, they are typically paid a premium salary.

An individual specialising in a technical field has two career choices – to take on the managerial career route, or to become an expert individual contributor. Contracting is a very popular career path in western countries such as Europe, USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand. This is due to the flexibility it provides to an individual’s lifestyle – contracting professionals often make use of the breaks in-between contracts to pursue hobbies or travel plans.

A majority of IT professionals generally have a high preference for specialising in a niche area whilst moving on from one organisation to another. This allows them an opportunity to gain exposure to new environments, technologies and projects which contribute to their knowledge and expertise. Based on the types of projects they are exposed to, they are often able to increase their rates after garnering adequate experience in various areas of expertise.

From an organisational perspective, there are many benefits of hiring talents on contract:

  • Completing a six-month task in three months by employing an expert provides a more cost-effective solution to an organisation.
  • Having a pool of contractors offers more flexibility in maintaining the work-force balance in times of downturn.
  • Contracting offers an initial insight into new markets which will help in making manpower decisions in countries with stricter labour laws.
  • Headcount issues can be easily managed by hiring talents on contract and passing on the responsibility of HR administration to professional organisations instead.
  • Organisations have the flexibility to transfer talents from one project to another based on appropriate skills-sets required for different projects.

Contracting in Asia

Before the global IT revolution, the working culture in Asia has generally been skewed towards job longevity and stability, thus resulting in the contracting option being a less popular method of hiring or working in Asia. In comparison with current dynamics revolving from what was once the famous Japanese working style of “one company, one career, one life” in older times, to the current infamous software engineers in India following a “one year, one company” lifestyle, Asia has seen a complete turnaround to the other side of the coin.

Contracting offers a middle path solution for the budding software professional who is hungry for exposure to new projects, more attractive compensation packages and new environments, as well as the employer on the lookout for expert talents to take on high–profile projects without having to commit to progressive career growth or an investment in long-term permanent headcount.

The challenge in Asia, however, seems to come from both sides.

Employers in the banking world are attracted to Asia in terms of its lower labour cost and are thus not encouraged to pay a premium to hire a contractor. As a result, many organisations are not entirely open to adopting the contracting resource option as it brings about the uncertainty of income and employment beyond the contractual period. A person who is employed on a contract could constantly be on the lookout for his/her next assignment and/or a permanent job. In actual fact, there is a high percentage of people preferring to switch jobs approximately every couple of years given the current buoyant job market facing a limited supply of skilled labour.

Contracting in Asia has a potential to mature into two different models:

Alternate long-term hiring:

Many global hiring organisations find it a challenge to obtain headcount approvals for permanent positions in offshore locations, in comparison with positions on six-month to one-year contracts. Thus, candidates are sometimes hired as a solution to bypass the headcount approval process and then gradually given the option to convert to a permanent headcount in the event of good performance and/or strong business case to justify the existing role.

Expertise-based hiring:

A fixed-term contract hire comprises of hiring an expert to complete an integral part of the project, or sometimes to run a very strategic and high visibility project. The expertise developed in this case can often lead to a premium being charged. There are various other reasons for hiring on contract; however, from a job seeker’s perspective, this is an option with opportunities galore as the market gradually matures with time.

Contracting is here to stay, regardless if it is a challenging or booming market. There are definitely more options out there in the job market when one keeps an open mind to consider contract work.

Here are more reasons why the job seeker should say “yes” to contracting:

  • It opens the door to a new industry or a new profile.
  • It is a stopgap arrangement for those in-between jobs.
  • It helps to increase your cash-in-hand by clubbing in the bonus as a guaranteed income.
  • It gives you the opportunity to try out a role before deciding to move long-term into a similar position, without having to commit to your employer.
  • You gain exposure to new technologies and projects across the industry in a much shorter time span.
  • You are provided with the opportunity to list additional knowledge and value to your CV with every new project undertaken.
  • You are provided with the opportunity to prove yourself in a large MNC environment and get recognised for better roles.
  • There is a lower risk of losing your job since the cost of hiring a contractor is relatively lower in comparison with a permanent headcount and organisations are thus less likely to hire and fire.
  • You have the opportunity to experience salary increments from one contract to another instead of having to wait for annual increments.
  • From a lifestyle perspective, it provides you with more freedom to plan longer holidays in-between contracts or to invest your time in trainings and courses to upgrade yourself and gain more skills.

In short, contracting definitely provides you with a more flexible lifestyle whilst broadening the limits and horizons for a professional, well-rounded and exponential career path.



Robert Walters is one of the world’s leading professional recruitment consultancies, specialising in the placement of permanent, contract and temporary positions across all levels of seniority.With international offices spanning five continents, we have the global coverage and expertise, as well as local insights and knowledge, to meet any recruitment need.

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