Different jobs

Why I’ve Worked In 10 Companies

One of my students Olu, recently asked me why I’ve worked in 10 companies in the last 10 years (you can see them on my LinkedIn profile). He asked if that means I’ve been sacked often!

It’s a great question and so I’ll answer it.

First of all, you need to understand that I am not an ’employee’; I am a contractor which effectively means I am an independent consultant. Contractors are typically hired to deal with very specific problems for a while then leave. There is no onus on a company to keep you on. However in reality it’s not like that, I’ve been brought in for 6 month contracts that lasted 18 months because I was that good. I’ve even done short 1 month and 2 week contracts which can be nice. Most of my contracts have been quite long.

There are three reasons I work as a contractor:

  • I get bored easily so I want to be able to work on lots of different projects
  • Quicker progress: People think they have to stay in a role for years to learn everything they need but it’s not true. You should need 12 months maximum, mostly less than that
  • The other finer point is that every time I go to a new contract I re-invent myself a little and I earn a little or a lot more than before

What kind of contract roles exists?

All of them! Analysts, Accountants, Controllers, Project Managers, PMOs etc. They all exist as contract roles and I encourage people to learn more about them.

You see, the world is moving more towards a gig based economy, which means more and more work is becoming like contract work. In a gig based economy, as I have found in my career, qualifications DON’T matter, being QUALIFIED matters.

Being qualified means you have solved problems with your skills in similar companies. So if you are a controller, you can help put robust cost controls around a business, a management accountant will put a solid month end financial reporting process where there wasn’t one, a Project Manager/PMO will help to deliver a year long project etc.

As we move towards more gig based work, I tell my students and mentees, don’t fight it. Don’t fear it. Embrace it and prepare for it.

How do you prepare? Easy, be good at what you do, whether controlling, project managing, business analysis etc., do it confidently and be more skilled than the next person.

As a contractor, you need to be better than the next person; I have had over 23 contract job offers in the last 10 years (I’ve only done 10 of them! But I like to have options).

My secret of being better was my Excel skills. You see when I turned up to interviews; I let hiring managers know how I used Excel to support my problem solving. Then I pulled out my laptop and showed them. They would be blown away at the reports, automated solutions and project management tools I would show them. That’s how I got 23 job offers in 10 years (plus my dazzling personality 😉

You see, it’s hard to demonstrate the power of a reporting process you created, controls you put in place or a project you delivered. They are all great achievements BUT one cannot demonstrate them in an interview. But Excel CAN be demonstrated, it’s very visual, powerful and it makes you unforgettable.

Sohail Anwar

I have helped a lot of folks with their Careers. Sign up for Free Excel Lessons that will help you get noticed at work. You will get very practical guidance on solving problems with Excel from someone who has worked in the biggest global organisations over the last decade.

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