The Decisive Advantage
No one told me about one hidden advantage, which for me overrides all of the disadvantages. This advantage was the driving force behind my decision to become an IT contractor and remain an IT contractor. Let me explain.
Before going on my own in 1996, I worked for a public school district for eight years. I taught some wonderful students, and designed and managed the school's network. However, there was a downside to teaching for a school. I had to ask for time off to take care of family health emergencies. During the time I was with the school my father was diagnosed and suffered with an aggressive metastatic cancer that was terminal. I had to take a great deal of time off to assist in his care. Whenever I had to be away from the classroom, the school had to get a substitute and I had to leave lesson plans, homework, and activities for my high school classes. When I returned I had to make up all the time off. My 180-day teaching schedule had no flexibility. If I was out of sick time or leave, my salary was docked and the guilt would rise up. I did not know what an IT contractor was in the early 90s. I wish I had. A lot of emotional turmoil could have been avoided.
As an IT contractor, I have the freedom and flexibility to design my schedule. I decide how much I want to earn, and how much I need to earn, how much I want to work and who I want to work for; that is, who I want to represent. There is no external pressure. I can take time off to take care of my family. I do not have to feel guilty when I am doing something that I know is right. I generally don't dock my own pay. I can follow my priorities and earn a good living doing something I love to do. If I want to work for six months, week in and week out, and then take six months off, I can. Several friends of mine do just that. If I want to take time off to contribute to a book, work in the field as a consultant, prepare a vendor's material, teach a class, work on a semipermanent basis for a vendor, or just kick back, I can!
Most jobs and most employers, despite the Family Leave act, impose a great deal of stress on employees. In this marketplace, employees are made to feel that work comes before all else. There is little or no respect for the family or the individual employee. With the level of stress that market madness generates, it is no wonder that so many people are experiencing stress-related illnesses and lives without joy.
The best decision I made in 1996 was to leave my position as a technology manager/high school teacher, and join the ranks of the IT contractor. I regained a great deal of self-esteem, my stress level went down, my schedule became mine, and my income when up. There was no more guilt. If I have to schedule a week off for doctor's appointments, I can without a feeling of angst. The hidden, unspoken benefit of being an IT contractor is freedom and the flexibility that freedom brings.