iContract’s Ed Bardos outlines three key learnings from his time in Japan and the need for contractors to be flexible, multi-faceted self-starters.
I was recently on a week-long business trip to Tokyo. I’d worked in Japan 10 years before, as a permanent employee for a large bank, and it was a nostalgic trip but it was also great to be back for my own business this time.
Japan is a fascinating, vibrant country with a mixture of ancient and modern traditions and customs (as well as amazing food, beautiful scenery and trains that are never late). As a contractor now, it reminded me of three important things:
To get ahead in doing business with different people, it is vital to learn about and respect those traditions. We have to be like a chameleon adapting to its surroundings. We will work for a greater number and variety of employers and the ability to recognise and adapt to the environment and to your boss is therefore a key personal skill. Recruiters and hiring managers will often look for candidates who are not only excellent at the job, but who can adapt to a culture of a company and with whom they feel they can get on.
The trip also reminded me that as contractors we are self-starters. We have to be looking for the opportunities for work and to take the initiative when we spot them. Sometimes the next project, comes out of the existing one simply by spotting an opening or meeting a good contact. As someone once said: “I am a firm believer in luck; and the harder I work the more I seem to have of it”.
On the long flight home, apart from catching up on several films, I used the time to make notes of what I’d learnt on the trip and how it was going to help me going forward. I think it’s vital for us to be making plans, especially as we are responsible for our own career paths. As another famous person once said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else”.
Having left permanent employment, I have a good idea of where I’d like to end up, and hopefully the plans I’ve made and the path I am on will get me there. It’s certainly taking longer and with more detours than I originally envisaged but I am adapting all the time and definitely enjoying the journey!