Acareo Ltd

Focusing on the main thing!

Downtime – the bit between contracts

We’ve just finished a great 6 months with a mid-size legal practice in Manchester and are now looking for the next contract. Every time a contract comes to an end there is a period of uneasiness coupled with expectation:

  • Uneasiness because
    • you don’t know when the next contract will start (or where) and you still have bills to pay – the reserves hopefully built up for such a “rainy day” will only last so long after all. We’ve had gaps varying between “next day start” and 4 months. Our ideal is somewhere in-between but nearer the “next day start” than the 4 months!
    • if the phone isn’t ringing regularly then self doubt creeps in – are we still cutting it? Does our vast experience in the BA world must count for something?
  • Expectation because
    • theres the thrill of the chase – where will that next role be?
    • will it be in the comfort zone of a favoured/seasoned sector or will it be in a whole new world where a client sees your potential and gives you the opportunity to prove yourself with a short lead contract?

Our MD, Andy Oddy, says that he will never get used to the uneasiness:

I miss working and the need for income to provide for my family will always be there. The worry about what comes next is only natural but the down time presents opportunities, lots of them. It is not a time for sitting round doing nothing, thats for sure and the expectation builds and more than makes up for any downside.

So, what happens at Acareo when a contract comes to an end? Andy summarises that “downtime” as anything but:

First off is brushing down the CV and posting it widely on recruitment sites alongside scouring the job/industry sites for those new opportunities. Ideally this will have been done a month before the end of the previous contract but I am constantly tweaking mine for roles that arise. Equally I take the time to refresh this site – it is my front window after all. Then I make a few calls to agencies who have used me before – I have made some of them a lot of money over the years so I like them to know I am available and looking. Next is hooking up with former clients via LinkedIn or email – there’ll be a select few who are now friends on Facebook but not many as I like to keep work an pleasure separate). All of these are leads to whatever might come next.

Once all of the seeds are sewn I turn to reflect on our last role. What have we learned, what could we have done differently – invariably it hinges around SME engagement – you simply cannot get enough exposure to subject matter experts – but how they will react/engage with you varies enormously depending upon whether you’re there as the “hatchet-man” or the “saviour”:

  • The hatchet man role is where there is a lot of time and therefore cost to be saved, efficiencies mean job cuts in most stakeholder eyes even though this isn’t strictly true.
  • The saviour role is where the business is expanding and there is new work/new products or new customers and the organisation needs to change rapidly in order to meet demand/expectations.

Then of course there is continuous professional development. The time between contracts is the time for going back to school. I always try and get in at least one course to brush up on some aspect of the business analyst toolbox/skill-set (and there are so many!)

For me I also take time to invest in my local schools where I am Chair of Governors at one (an  outstanding primary school) and a parent governor at another (an outstanding high school/academy). Education is my passion.

Lastly (but by no means least) there is the family – it’s time to make up for all of those late nights/days away and spend some quality time with the people that matter the most. A holiday isn’t always possible (if only contract end was always aligned with the school holidays eh?) but there are other ways of making a difference. Lunch out with my better half, Taxi service for my daughter – I used to help with homework but now it’s A-Level Chemistry/Biology and Maths that’s a bit beyond me other than moral support. Indeed the taxi service used to be local but nowadays it seems to be wider afield for gigs in the big cities! Then of course there is catching up on all those jobs that just seem to appear out of nowhere – the garden, decorating, odd-jobs…

All in all there is no such thing as downtime between contracts – different roles and activities, yes, different value streams most definitely but downtime it is not!

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