Career Advice Tuesday – “Help Me Convert”

March 9, 2010

Dear Infosecleaders:

This past year I began working for a company as a consultant.  Although I was pursuing full time employment, the company at that time was not able to add full time headcount, so they offered me an hourly position.  This was not my first choice, however the money was really good and the they guaranteed me a minimum amount of hours per month.  All in all, I was comfortable with the arrangement so I accepted the role.

Well, do to the need for the information security specific work that I was performing (security event management software implementation) my company was asking me to work 40+ hours a week.   This has progressed for the past six months – and the money has been fantastic – almost twice the amount I was earning in my last job.

Last week, I was called into the office by my manager and she told me that they wanted to convert me to a full time employee.   Although I will receive benefits, the pay will be about 60% of what I was earning as a consultant.  

I believe that this is just too little and I feel that I am being taken advantage of and am inclined to reject their offer.   Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation?  Do you have any thoughts on what fair pay would be if I were to convert? 


Resiting Conversion

Dear Unwilling Convert:

It is clear that there are two big concerns that you have regarding this matter:  your pride and your wallet.  

It appears to me that you have a big problem with the way that your employer (contracting firm) has been treating you.  From what you have told me, they seem to do what is best for them, as opposed to what is best for you.  Unfortunately, this is the nature of a contracting relationship and is typical business practice for firms that utilize information security professionals who consent to this type of business relationship.   The fact of the matter is that they are not an employer in the true sense of the world, they hold the contract or contracts that you are working under. 

I liken the relationship that you described to the one that a host shares with a parasite – let me explain:

In this relationship, you are the host, and they are the parasite.  As long as you are working on their engagements, they are able to make money off of your work (feed off of you).  Once you stop working and performing, they will either cease to exist (lose the contract) or find themselves another host (someone else with your skills).   However, as you know, if the parasite kills the host, both parties will die, so they have incentive to retain your services and keep both you (and the customer) happy. 

Since you have already determined the nature of the relationship, what you have to find is the necessary balance that you require to continue working and feel good about going to work.   In the case of a contracting relationship,  the more money you earn, the better that you will feel. 

The way to do this would be to figure out a fair salary for you to convert to a full time employee or reducing your contract price to ensure that the relationship still works for your contracting firm (employer).  The best guidance that I can give you is that contractors are usually compensated at a rate of anywhere between 1.33X and 1.66X of a full time equivalent.    If we took the average which is 1.5X that could be the multiplier.   

For example - if you are earning 200K as a contractor - a reasonable salary would be $133,333.00.  If you are earning 100K as a contractor the reasonable salary would be $66,667.00.

In your note, you stated that your compensation was over 2X the amount of your last full time salary.  If that is the case, I can see why the amount that they are paying you is drawing some attention.   You also stated that they offered you about 60% of  your contract pay - which would make sense if your plugged the numbers into the equation.

I would try to use the parameters that are described above to determine a fair compensation package – either as an employee or as a contractor – whichever way works best for you.  You should try to be fair in these discussions, but now that you are a proven “commodity” you have some additional value and you should exploit this with your employer/contract firm, just as they have attempted to exploit your talents by offering you compensation at the lower end of the scale.

Let us know how this turns out.

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


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