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This chapter is from the book

Billing Work = Good Work (with Few Exceptions)

Let’s assume you work for a reasonably good consulting firm, one that does not send you to coal mines after your previous gig doing COBOL because some client decided it would pay a software developer to mine coal. If the firm you work for is somewhat less than horrific, if it was good to you during good times, you should probably allow the firm some leniency when the client pool starts to thin out and you end up doing some work you would rather not do.

In other words, now is the time to consider “taking one for the team.” There are exceptions to this, in decreasing order of importance:

  • Someone at the client’s office is putting your life in danger.
  • You are being asked to shred documents for a company whose name starts with E and ends in ron.1
  • You are told that flex time is offered and you need to pick the 20 hours each day you want to work (and oh, you can bill for only 8).
  • The commute is in excess of 3 hours each way, and mileage expenses are not covered.
  • You are independently wealthy and in a position to say, “Take this job and shove it.”

Outside reasons on that scale, it is probably not a good idea to ask to be moved to a different engagement because you don’t like the technology, you don’t like filling out TPS reports,2 or you don’t like how your coworker smells. Asking to be moved in a declining market means there is a good chance you will be moved ... to a bench where, during recessions, the time period from hitting the bench and getting a pink slip shortens appreciably.

  • Survival Strategy #8: A recession is a very bad time to ask to get put on another client, unless the issues at the client have to do with ethics, morals, or legal concerns.

If you find yourself in this category of an engagement—the irritating but modestly tolerable—you are best served by doing everything you can to cope during the downturn. The upside to working in such a situation is that there is a good chance—exactly because the place is such a hell-hole—it will have a hard time getting permanent employees, recession or no. If you can stick it out, there is a good chance you might be able to hold your nose there and at least get to the other side of the recession.

Make sure of two things: that the firm you work for knows what the conditions are and that you are happy to work with the client to “take one for the team.” By letting the firm know the conditions and that you are happy to live through them for the good of the firm, you position yourself to be rewarded once better work comes along when the economy improves. Of course, you do need to be careful: There is a fine line between informing about conditions and complaining about them. But if you can state in fact-based terms what the challenges are and do so in a way that is more about a warning to others than your own misgivings about it, you can definitely get points for being a trooper willing to go into tough conditions to help the company rather than demerits for being the jerk who complains just because every day isn’t sunny.

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