Thoughts | October 2, 2018

Contractor Corner: Olga Shapiro

Contracting has become a rising alternative to full-time employment, inspired by millennials’ desires for freedom and control over their career. It seems that this paradigm shift is not just affecting liberal entrepreneurial occupations, but now is emerging in more traditional corporate environments.

As a part of GigNow’s Contractor Corner, we are chatting with Olga Shapiro, who has been contracting for several years and just completed a gig in EY’s Financial Services Group.

Hi Olga! To start, could you briefly share your professional background with us?

I worked full time in public accounting for three years at the top national accounting firms before I transitioned over to contract work. I have two busy seasons as a contractor under my belt so far.

Why did contract work appeal to you when you had been working as a full-time employee?

After completing a busy season as a full-time worker, I hit a crossroads and questioned what I wanted from my career long-term and what my next steps looked like. I felt like contracting would give me the time to get clarity on the bigger picture, while still moving forward with my existing career. It also gave me the time to explore different areas of personal and professional interest. Contracting allowed me to take charge of my career and design my own unique path.

How did you use your newfound flexibility to figure out your next steps?

Well, after my first year of contracting, I spent one month in India reflecting on my path and setting clear metrics for my future professional progression. With that clarity, I was able to apply my knowledge in Core Assurance to a new area of Financial Services, to spend two months obtaining my Personal Development Coaching Certificate in Moscow, and to volunteer my help at a healing arts practice in California and Montreal.

So switching to a contract worker, you were able to explore both professional and personal aspects of your life.

Yes. For me, contracting is a unique opportunity to advance my career in financial accounting while also developing other areas of personal and professional interest. I think the biggest benefit of contracting is that it gives a person freedom. What they do with that freedom it’s up to them. Some people need time to think about their next career move, to transition to a new career, to pursue an advanced degree, to build their own side business, to travel the world, or to just spend time with their family. Contracting is really what you make out of it. 

Do you think it takes away from your career that you are no longer working as a full-time employee?

Not at all! It is actually the opposite in my experience. When I come in as a contractor, I jump right into the busiest and hardest time of the audit. It requires me to be more efficient and skillful in managing the change. I must quickly determine the needs of the client, understand the industry thoroughly, update myself on the most recent technical accounting pronouncements, and support the existing team members while providing the best quality of client service possible. If you like the challenge and opportunity to grow as much as I do, then contracting is for you.

Are there any downsides to contracting?

For me, the biggest downside of contracting is that it does not have the underlying stability and predictability that full-time positions offer. You don’t always sign another contract several months in advance and you always have to be in a state of looking for your next gig. That’s why being prepared for this shaky period, facing your fear and not settling for less while you keep your long-term vision and focus is so essential. I go through this phase every year, it does not go away and you just have to accept it as part of the game.

What advice you would give to someone considering gig work?

I would say know what you want to accomplish with your time, develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) short-term and long-term goals and see how you can use contracting as a tool to move forward and succeed in your broader vision.

Thank you, Olga for sharing your story with us. Contracting serves people in many different ways and it is always good to hear that it has helped one of our GigNow contractors.