The Five Biggest Myths about Contract Engineers (and why you shouldn’t believe them)

By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

Despite the widespread availability of data and facts, myths abound in the workplace. For instance, take the misconception that experienced engineers would rather have a regular, full-time job than work on a contract basis.

In fact, nearly 86 percent of independent workers indicate they are highly satisfied or satisfied with their work situation. Furthermore, only 13 percent plan on seeking a traditional job over the next 24 months, according to a study by MBO Partners. The report states: “These findings debunk the popular misconception that workers are forced into independence due to job loss or lack of alternatives.”

Let’s take a look at five of the most common myths associated with contract engineers, and what the real facts are for each one.

Myth No. 1: Money is a contractor’s prime motivation

Of course money’s important. But surveys show that compensation is of equal importance to contractors and full-time professionals. Both groups weigh money, technical challenges and career enhancement when making employment decisions. And this may surprise you: after seniors, Gen Xers (persons born between 1965 and 1977) are the least likely to choose a contract career for the money. When asked what their single greatest motivation was for becoming independent, 36 percent of Gen Xers responded “Do what I love” – versus 19 percent for the rest of the independent workers who participated in MBO Partners’ study.

Myth No. 2: Contractors aren’t as committed as full-time engineers

A recent study of white collar contractors by Dr. Tui McKeown challenges this notion. In the 2012 IPro Index, roughly two-thirds of respondents said they felt a sense of commitment to their current client. Over half remarked that they saw employers’ problems as being their own. Moreover, the survey indicates that contractors are as enthusiastic, committed and industrious as their regularly-employed counterparts.

Myth No. 3: There’s a widespread shortage of contractors

While it’s true that talent shortages exist in some disciplines and locales, a report by the Brookings Institution found no widespread shortage of skilled labor and, more specifically, engineers. High employment levels often result in greater demand for contractors and fierce competition within a geographic region. The areas with the lowest unemployment rates for engineers include New York, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Chicago and Boston.

Myth No. 4: Contractors are laid-back

Ninety-five percent of contractors say they adhere to agreed-upon schedules and 96 percent say they complete project goals as quickly as possible. In fact, engineering managers count on contract veterans to hit the ground running and work with minimal supervision when time is of the essence.

Myth No. 5: A robust economy drives the demand for contractors

Certainly the economy is a factor, but roughly a third of American workers are in part-time, contract or temporary jobs. And this number is expected to grow. The reasons include a desire and need for greater flexibility by workers and employers, an abundance of short-term projects and the growing ranks of retirees who have the desire and physical ability to remain active into their later years. The engineering sector is expected to grow by 4 percent in 2013 over 2012 according to projections by Staffing Industry Analysts.

Other information of potential interest

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Insightful Interviews: Favorite Questions Asked by Engineering Managers

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