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Have I messed up!!! What are my options??

#1 Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
08/05/2012 14:11


Hi Guys!!

UK MBA with overall 15 years experience (3 with BIG 4 as manager), past 3 years (approx) have been contracting as Project Manager ( roles have been mixed as IT PM/ Business PM)

During this period

1) First contract lasted 1.5 years didn't accept the extension as I was bored with that BANK " overall i worked with this bank for 4 years (1.5 as contractor and 2.5 through BIG 4)

----2 months GAP---before I accepted a permanent position with BIG 4 but didn't like it due to various reasons and left after 2 months.

------2 months GAP-----before I secured my next contract role

2) 2nd Contract lasted 3 months but didn't accept the extension as the role required me to be away from home for 5 days a week

-----2 months GAP-----before I secured my next contract role with one of the leading investment Bank.

3) Contract lasted 6 months with that leading investment bank....

I finished my last contract at the end of FEB and then went on 3 weeks's been around 1.5 months of looking for next role but market doesn't look good..only 1 interview so far!!! Phone doesn't ring for days despite of applying for roles every single day!!! (from last 2.5 months surviving on my savings)!!!

I have been working on day rates from £475 to £550 which is just an average for a Contract PM. I am tired of looking for new contract every 3-6 months not sure whether this short assignments are normal in contracting??

What are my options?? Am I branded as career contractor?? How difficult it would be to go back permanent??

I won't be happy on a permanent salary less than 90K basic but at the same time I don't want to go back to BIG 4 rather would prefer industry or small consulting.....Thinking of joining IB as VP- senior project manager but not sure they pay £90K basic!!

Please let me know your views and whether I messed up with my career already???


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#2 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
09/05/2012 09:49

Mr Cool to UKCONTRACTOR (#1)

First of all don’t be too despondent – very few people irrevocably mess up their careers, but most people have a period where their career does not go as they wish.

If this happens to coincide with a bad employment market it can be hard to make the change that you want as opportunities are fewer and the situation seems a lot worse.

Some general points:

Looking for roles every three months is a sign of a bad contractor (not getting extended). Conversely contract heaven at PM level is getting gigs that run for two years. It is rare to run more than two years. Contractor normality is therefore a new role 6 – 12 months at PM level. I’m afraid you need to be comfortable with that to stay as a contractor.

475-550 is indeed a fairly standard banking PM rate. It suggests that you are being viewed (rightly or wrongly) as middle of the road. PM’s who are a bit special should be getting 550-600. Mainly they get this by building up a reputation with a handful of clients.

Downtime is inevitable and the more you change jobs the more down periods you’ll have. Two months is quite normal. You do need to be a bit smart on this and not take long holidays at the end of a contract and THEN look for work. Ideally always find a new job before voluntarily giving up a current one. Being away from home very tough, but if you give it up without an alternative then it will lead to down time.

Most contractors should assume no more than 8 months of billing per year at 18 days per month. Above that requires strong client skills, a great CV and hot spot skills.

If you’re applying EVERY day then you’re probably applying for things that you’re not right for – there’s not enough around to support that level of application.

Over the years I’ve worked out that when contractors move to perm to a bank, a very good proxy is about 140 days times your day rate = likely base perm salary. That suggests your perm salary target at a bank should be 70K-75K. That is exactly in line with my experience of a VP-level salary. You could do better but it would need an employer to decide that they really, really needed you specifically over any other PM candidate.

Sorry – some info in there you probably don’t want to hear!

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#3 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
09/05/2012 11:58

UKCONTRACTOR to Mr Cool (#2)

Hi Mr. Cool,

Great response.

Yes, It was a learning experience not to take vacation at the end of the contract. I did it so that I don't loose my billing days but I was wrong as it is eventually costing me more.

I might be considered as a bad contractor but all of my contracts were extended and it was me who voluntarily gave up all my previous contracts. Even my last 6 months contract was getting extended for another 3 months but the project which they were giving me for next 3 months was a real mess and was worth more than £550 a day therefore, I decided to move on and enjoy my 3 weeks vacation. (they even agreed to my 3 weeks vacation!!). I have kept extension paper work from all previous contract "in case if some agency do ask".

I do consider myself as mid road PM therefore £550 a day correctly reflects my worth. If it takes too long to secure a new contract I might consider £475 a day as well "to be honest".

Finally on permanent basic salary, my last basic with BIG 4 was £80K+ 6.5k car+ other benefits. Hence, the reason of £90K basic expectations. £75K doesn't sound too low considering Consulting companies pays more but I will try hard to get my desired basic.

Interestingly since Yesterday (since I made up my mind for considering permanent roles) I am receiving calls with basic ranging from £95K and surprisingly getting more calls for permanent roles than contract roles despite of I am contracting from past 3 years!!

One Recruitment agent has just submitted my CV for £95K basic and £100K basic respectively. Though it's just a start but hopefully something will work out!!

Not sure why people are more interested in my CV for permanent roles than contract roles but probably this could be due to MBA+ 2 of the BIG 4 experience!!

If I do take your calculation i.e. a contractor should only assume average 8 months of billing with 18 day a month i.e. 144 days which effectively ranges between £68400 (@475 a day) and £79200 turnover then contracting doesn't sound like a good option at all!! If that's the reality of contracting then I should not be wasting time in applying for contract roles at all and rather 100% focus on permanent roles.

Having said that I have billed 240 days in past (48 weeks per year @ 5 days a week) but those days are kind of gone... Contracting to me sounds a good option only if I can bill between 200 and 240 days a year else what's the fun of earning less money in contracting than permanent?

I am very hopeful to get £90K basic jobs but fully aware this may take time.

Am I all talking crap?? Any further views from you Mr. Cool?

Thanks once again for your time.


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#4 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
09/05/2012 13:25

Mr Cool to UKCONTRACTOR (#3)

Hi - further comments

If you are in a contract that you think is only going to last three months or less with no renewal options then it is understandable to take no holiday and to maximise billing days. If there is any longer contract option then its best to take the days off mid-contract, so that you have the energy to go straight to a new contract if poss. You give up 10 days of billing but “enable” yourself to move to a further 3-6 month contract. Ten days holiday is less than the average two months it takes to find a new contract! As you say – lesson learned.

I didn’t mean to imply you’re a bad contractor. However most agencies have a really shallow approach to assessing your ability, and one of the main ones is to look at multiple extensions. You’ve done the right thing keeping extension paperwork, even where you turned it down, but make sure that goes on your CV (extension offered).

The problem is that turning down an extension with nothing to go to straight away does sometimes scare agencies off. It tells them that you are strong enough to walk away from a job that you don’t like. Admirable quality – but they prefer people who are too scared to do that cos it means an end to their commission!

Flexing on rates is always better than being out of work so your comments sound sensible.

Regarding the target rate, its fair of you to target 90k+ on the basis of your previous perm package but not on the basis of your contract income. My analysis? You’ve been better at maximising your value in a perm role than you have been in a contract one – perhaps you are simply better suited to that? The skills and mentality are not the same. Perhaps that explains the higher rate of interest you’re getting in your perm CV?

Regarding contractor income – it is very variable. The average is probably about 7-8 months of billing. This leaves you 4-5 months “holiday” as long as you see it that way and don’t spend every day off stressing about your next job. Do you value that time off? In years where you bill 10 months, the extra two months means bonus income of 20-40K! You say you once billed 240 days? But remember that means holidays of just twenty days including holidays! Fine when you want the extra cash – but not sustainable for a career!

Over the long term I always advise contractors to manage their personal finances assuming 7-8 month (140-160 days) billing per year. Anything above that is a bonus to be put aside for a rainy day. If you then have 3 or 4 years of 200days+, then you'll have a very nice lump sum to blow on something fun and still have some air cover.

Sadly many contractors forget they are paid a premium to cover their downtime risk and over time persuade themselves that the premium is because of their superior quality. Along comes a bad market and they find they need 200 days a year just to pay their basic bills. Ouch.

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#5 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
09/05/2012 18:03

UKCONTRACTOR to Mr Cool (#4)

Thanks Mr. Cool,

Appreciated your response.

I liked your comment about making sure putting (extension offered) on my CV but not sure whether such comments will put off agencies straight away "thinking I am too aggressive to turn extensions down" or will make them curious to call me and ask why I didn't accept the extension?

Also I am in agreement with your comments on anything above 7-8 months billing is a bonus and needs to be treated as cover for rainy days. That way 4-5 months downtime "which you say is a norm in contracting" won't hurt that much.

A different perspective of thinking but yes it makes all sense!!


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#6 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
11/05/2012 19:37


Hi Mr. Cool,

How long do you think it would be wise to look for my next contract role before turning to permanent roles?

I just do not want to give up contracting until there is real reason to believe I can not do well in contracting (after all all my previous contracts were extended and probably I was "overconfident" that it won't take me more than a month or two to secure my next role "never took me more than 2 months previously" and hence, kept on rejecting extensions for various "right or wrong" reasons).

My savings can pay my bills for next 15 months before I drain them all and I really don't want that to happen.

It's been full 1 month when I seriously started looking for new roles and in all my sincerity I believe I should wait for maximum another 3 months for a contract role. (Overall 5.5 months GAP which includes vacations etc.)

How would contracting and permanent markets will see this 5-6 months GAP on my CV 3 months down the line and whether waiting for another 3 months (even for £475 a day role) for a contract role is a wise decision?

That £100K basic CV Submission have now progressed to 1st interview which I sadly refused to attend and withdrawn my application considering it was for a service provider whereas I have now concluded that "if at all" I ever go permanent it would be in industry i.e. IB/FS Sector.

I personally believe it's not the time to turn to permanent roles, just not yet!

I am sounding too confused?


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#7 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
14/05/2012 11:01


just to offer some more direct market context, from within the change function of a large bank. we have been successfully converting contractors to perm at a substantial 'discount'; mid-level contractors on 500-600 a day have been taking perm roles in the 70K range. this seems to be partly because of volatility and partly because many banks have been squeezing rates more or less in unison via forced 10% cuts. if you're getting offers in the 90-100K range then you may be well advised to take them (though equally if you were on c80K in a Big 4 then your contractor rate was undercooked).

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#8 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
03/06/2012 11:52

briankg88 to rc (#7)

There's a trick to finding a job fast, and you don't have to already know someone in the company to do it.

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#9 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
27/06/2012 21:16

UKCONTRACTOR to briankg88 (#8)

Mr Cool, Never thought I will be back here that early and seeking your suggestion and opinion?

As mentioned in my other post that after 3 months of GAP on my CV I landed up with 2 contracts and accepted one of them which was slightly better paying and the role was Business PM (the other offer was for IT PM).

It's been a couple of weeks in the new role and it is becoming apparent that the Programme Director (permie) who interviewed and hired me is a nightmare!! My line manager i.e. Programme Manager (who reports into that Programme Director) also interviewed me and is a nice chap however, is a contractor.

The issue I have is that Programme Director is a micro manager to unbelievable level!! Recently he has been very rude to the programme manager "in front of many people including his team members i.e. me" on such a tiny matter. This Programme Director interacts with me as well for no apparent reasons every now and than and I am concerned how things will go moving further. They way this programme director acted/behaved with that programme manager I in my wildest dream can't expect to be treated that way "even if I did something silly in managing the project" .

If such things happen to me I will be quitting same day!!

I can do the job (despite of I have been IT PM all my career apart from last 8 months when I worked as lead change manager for a leading investment bank and did splendid job) however, it seems this programme director has got larger than life expectations which I have concluded I can not meet. I can't imagine someone sitting on my head and telling me how I need to draft the project plans!! That's what this Programme Director is doing with my programme manager. I can foresee what my programme manager (who himself has been programme director within this organisation on his earlier engagements) is going through at the moment I will soon be going through the same in coming month or so!!

Conclusion: I can't work with this Programme Director. Why on earth this Programme Director needs to interact with me for anything when he has programme manager under him who is my line manager and my project sits under my programme manager's programme.

So I am thinking to move on from this role but the question is when should be the right time to resign so that I don't have much damage to my CV.

Understanding I recently had a big gap on my CV i.e. 3 months when I was travelling and looking for a contract how killing it would be if I leave my current contract anytime from now?

It would not be good to show on CV that I looked 3 months for a role and when I got the role I left in couple of weeks!!

My options are following:

A) Can resign now by giving 1 week notice which will take my engagement in this project until 1st week of July. My CV will say I worked for 2 months (factually I would have worked only 3 weeks) for this client i.e. from June 12- July 12.

B) Can wait until mid July and then resign i.e. another 2-3 weeks of torture by this Programme director. After mid July my notice period will become 1 month which will take me to Mid Aug. My CV will show I worked for this client for 3 months i.e. from June 12 to Aug 12 (factually I would worked only for 2 months). Once I would have put up my resignation I would not care what this programme director says as I can always choose not to listen to him during my notice period.

C) Don't resign and keep on going until this programme director becomes absolutely unbearable....the risk here is I will be approaching Sep and OCT months and leaving a contract that time may mean no new contract until Feb-Mar 2013!!!

My preferred option is Option B. My CV won't look that bad considering looking for a role for 3 months and then doing a short contract of 3 months "on paper" (factually 2 months) does sound better than leaving the contract after 2 weeks.

There are rumours that this programme director might not renew the contract of the programme manager which is in next 2 weeks and if my programme manager is gone my life will be miserable by dealing directly with this programme director!!

The role is merely paying £550 a day but the project is very high profile and high visibility project. Is it worth taking that much pain and sitting around for more than 2 weeks before I put 1 month notice?

What are your thoughts around this? I really need your opinion before I do any mess up!!

Is there any better way to deal with the issue instead of resigning? The work pressure is so high that it will be impossible to look for a new contract in parallel so I will have to wait until mid july i.e. until I resign before putting up my CV in the market.


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#10 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
29/06/2012 09:43

SNCareerCoach to UKCONTRACTOR (#9)

Ouch!! I know about that micro management situation - nasty. It's one of my pet hates, so I understand where you're coming from. As the timeline is quite short, I suggest staying put and biting your lip. BUT, future moves need more reflection it seems...

Maybe - for the future - take a big step back and examine your priorities and values... hence future choices may more accurately reflect what you "really" want. The flip side is accepting this scenario may be a feature of your career on an ongoing basis - nature of the beast, so to speak.

I've done some free webinars which might help stimulate some thinking.

Let me know how you get on.


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#11 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
29/06/2012 09:48

Mr Cool to UKCONTRACTOR (#9)

No easy answer I'm afraid, but consider the following...

You can massage you CV in terms of dates, but when you get you next contract the agency will almost definitely want a reference that cnfirms the exact start and end dates - so any attempt to turn five weeks into three months will be uncovered. They may care at this stage or they may not - but its a risk.

The balance of money earned versus what you have to put up with, I'm afraid there is no one that can asnwer that but yourself. How much do you need the momney.

Given your time off, I'd suggest that you tough it out as long as you can. A proper three months in the role would look fine on your CV. As you say - once you've handed in your notice, you can work 9-5 and ignmore any rude behaviour.

Also - don't kid yourself that you can't look for another job at the same time. Surfing jobsites and submitting CV's can all be done in the evening. When agencies phone, talk for a few minutes and the arrange to call them back at a convenient moment. If you do get interviews, ask first if you can do them at 8am or after work, as you are on a very busy project. Once you;re on a months notice, you can interview whenever you like. You are running your own business - the client does not have the right to stop you leaving the building in order to find more work - you simply don't bill for that short time, or make the time up later.

Good luck

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#12 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
30/06/2012 10:43

UKCONTRACTOR to Mr Cool (#11)

Thanks All,

Mr Cool,

Unfortunately the worse did happen, this Micro Manager started increasing his interaction with me and said something which prompted me to call it a day!! handed over my 5 days notice to the agency.

Moreover, my programme manager didn't accept his extension ( he left after his initial 3 months) and friday was his last working day.

So the situation now is by the end of my notice period I would have worked 3 weeks in this contract.

now the question is do I need to show this contract on my CV? Will I be doing anything legally wrong by not showing this 3 weeks contract on my CV?

How would market take it if I do show this experience on my CV? Would it not be better to show that I didn't work since last 4 months rather showing I recently worked only for 3 weeks?

My programme director is now frustrated with my decision, my agency is frustrated that I am leaving at that early stage. My agency (a small fish) even said I would never get any future contract with this bank as everything is centralised from interim recruitment perspective which I am really not bothered about. My Programme Manager (who has already left) is more than happy to provide any future reference for this contract and he fully supports my decision. He also asked me to tell my agency to set their records right and correctly put his name as my line manager and gave his personal email ID for their records "in case if I do decide to show this contract on my CV".

The concern I have is at some point during the recruitment process/security check I will have to declare the activities (travel, job hunt etc.) I did during these 4 months and at that point I can not hide mentioning about this contract else it might be illegal? How would recruitment agency and my future client would take it at that stage when they find that I initially (or during interview) did not mention about this contract?

In my view if I show this short contract on my CV I might be drastically putting recruitment agencies away to shortlist me but at the same time I don't want to do anything illegal?

What do you suggest?


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#13 RE: Have I messed up!!! What are my options??
03/07/2012 23:46



Would appreciate views from Anyone on the post above as to do I legally need to show this 3 weeks contract on my CV?

Would I be doing anything wrong if I say I have been looking for new roles (i.e. business development for my own limited company) since last 4 months rather than mentioning about this short 3 weeks contract which didn't work out to my expectations as per the reasons mentioned above?

After all I am director and employee of my own limited company and in the capacity of the director I can declare this 3 week contract work as internal business development work done by my company's director/employee for expanding the business of my own company.

This internal business development work can be further described as initial "paid" meetings with a client to determine whether my company would be happy providing the desired services to that client. Outcome of those 3 weeks paid discussions was my company would not like to provide services to that client.

So why on earth I need to show on my CV how I generate business for my own company.

In my view, effectively all I need to show on my CV is I am director of my company from last 3 years. What clients and experiences I should be showing on my CV during those 3 years should be my choice.

Am I missing anything? Am I all talking non-sense?


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