More on the Life of a Contractor

Firstly, Happy New Year everyone. I wish everyone the best for 2013.

But now back to blogging and a comment on my 2011 post about Life as a Contractor, which was about my own experience here. That of course is datum – the singular of data. A recent comment on that post came from Marie, who said:

I started a new gig as a contractor, and have seen that it is worse than your experience. Contractors aren’t treated with as much respect, nor do my coworkers really give a crap about me. My boss is based in another state, I am paid below market rate, no one is eager to train me in the company’s proprietary systems, and I’m finding it very difficult to get plugged into what’s going on as I’m not on employee based email lists.

Marie has my sympathies and even in my own situation (which is much more friendly) there are a few things that I don’t get or don’t see. Some of the software we use does not work right for me, which is a little irritating (I have to give my chemical orders to my lab-mate; oddly, regular lab orders work just fine). My suspicion is that most contractors are in a situation more like Marie’s where they are not part of the company culture, just here temporarily (even if temporarily means months or years). So they are maybe not treated as well or given the perks of the employee. If there is downsizing to be done, contractors will get it first and if you are not going to be here in the long-term, the pay-off for training in systems seems to be less, or the manager may see it as less worthwhile at least. It is a rough place to be in. I know I am lucky to be a contractor that does not have most of these problems.

One thing that has changed since my earlier post (that was in 2011) is that I no longer am using the contractor health insurance package (which was very much limited and coverage maxed quickly). Now I have individual coverage with a high deductible but no max so if something Bad happens, I won’t be bankrupted by it. I am actually wondering how the changes to health insurance will affect that policy, but so far it has been fine.

I must admit to being a little in the dark with how things stand now with regard to contractors and permanent employees. Are more permanent folks being taken on now or is it still the more conservative contractor route, with a note of “if things work out we’ll hire you permanently”? My local data is that not much of either hiring is going on, for synthetic chemistry at least (analytical chemistry is another matter and there seems a relative abundance of those in and around RTP). I’d love to hear from anyone around the country to get their take on it.

My impression is that it is still a tough market, that employers can use contractors for short term fixes and then let them go when that project is done. And there is plenty of people willing to take the chance on a possible temp-to-perm hire so they suffer the short term distresses of the contract agreement. And while the recovery is sluggish as it is I don’t really see why that would change.

I started the post with a best wishes for 2013 and by the end of it, I’m thinking we’ll need those good wishes.