Six tips on how to hone your contractor skills in preparation for 2021

As Australia is consistently seeing low levels of the coronavirus, and we look towards rebuilding our economy, more and more opportunities are re-emerging for workers with the right contractor skills.

However, the world of work has changed.

Employers are embracing remote working, flexibility and online technology more than ever before, but that also means that they are valuing different skills and seeking workers that can adapt to this changing landscape.

Because of this, it’s essential for contingent workers to continually build skills and seek out opportunities to remain competitive.

To position yourself in the best way possible for 2021, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important contractor skills to develop for the year ahead.

Communication and emotional intelligence skills

communications skills

Since the beginning of modern work, being able to make yourself understood has been an enduring trait in all workplaces. Yet a recent survey found that communication and collaboration are the most important soft skills that employees are lacking.

These skills refer to workers’ ability to work well in teams, listen closely with empathy, and act with the confidence necessary for group situations.

Regardless of whether they are in customer-facing roles, or dealing with internal stakeholders, these workers use their high emotional intelligence to hold teams together and achieve business objectives.

In a world with frequent zoom calls, isolated working and the added stress of COVID uncertainty, communication is an essential skill to develop for any business.

Embrace technology

Embrace technology skills

Organisations are being forced to quickly adapt their operations and bring their technology into the 21st century. In a post COVID world, businesses are turning to artificial intelligence and machine learning to streamline operations and better prepare themselves for potential turbulence ahead.

This means companies will highly favour contractors who are tech-savvy, even more than they do currently.

Some of the biggest contractor skills in demand include:

  • Programming
  • Web development
  • Cybersecurity
  • Digital marketing

The digital transformation of businesses is essential to weather the coronavirus storm.

In the same way, contractors who can support and enhance this transformation will be near-essential in 2021.

Adapt to your surroundings

Adapt to your surroundings

One of the most important soft skills in the modern workplace is adaptability and flexibility.

Workers need to ensure they can employ critical thinking and problem-solving skills in difficult situations. Additionally, adaptability improves resilient behaviour, and enables you to not just accept change, but thrive in it.

The pure nature of contracting makes this an essential skill; the events of 2020 have only emphasised this need.

In Australia, like many countries around the world, vast numbers of workers were required to abandon their workplaces in favour of their home office in an incredibly short timeframe. There are few other situations where adaptability skills have been put to so great a test, with workers transitioning to remote work overnight.

The pandemic has also accelerated an already growing trend – the unlikelihood of remaining in one job for life. Contractors who are prepared to adapt quickly, not only to new clients and workplaces but also to ever changing industries, are most likely to succeed.

Boost your creativity

Boost creativity

Many businesses are pivoting away from their traditional approach to meet the demands of 2020.

Gin distillers started to produce hand sanitisers, universities started making health equipment with 3D printers and car manufacturers have started producing breathing aids.

These remarkable innovations have only been possible with the work of human ingenuity.

In 2021, we’ll be entering uncharted territory, and will be relying on workers that can envisage entirely new ways of doing things. Even in technical industries, workers with a flair for the creative who are able to increase efficiency or reduce costs with out of the box thinking will be highly prized.

Develop leadership skills

Develop leadership skills

Contract work is likely to continue to accelerate in the near future, and as such, businesses will need agile leaders to manage various teams of contractors. Coupled with remote working and social distancing measures, the traditional barriers to entering leadership roles (for example, geography) are being broken down.

Leaders are not born, they are taught.

If you’d like to take advantage of the job opportunities associated with being a business manager, it’s essential to undertake leadership training to understand:

  • How to give constructive feedback
  • How to motivate others
  • How to problem-solve and make confident decisions

Even if you have no desire for leadership positions, leadership skills can benefit any worker and will be beneficial when dealing with any internal or external stakeholder.

Keep updating your contractor skills

Keep updating your contractor skills

According to the World Economic Forum, in five years, a third of the skills that are considered important will have changed.

Although we can give you recommendations on what we think is important in the near future, you may need to reprioritise multiple times over the course of your career. And the only way to keep on top of that is by constantly updating your abilities.

Even though the economy has been slow to regain momentum, there are still opportunities for contractors who have committed to this ongoing learning. Workers looking to quickly build their capability don’t need to spend four years on a university degree, however; there are a number of free, short courses out there to fill your gaps. Below, we’ve provided a number of resources that will give you an edge:

Above all else, developing your skills is a continual process.

Now is the perfect time to brush up on your skills to prepare for 2021.


As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce engagement. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your engagement.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help please contact us here.