In the early 2000s, I worked for a large IT consulting firm. One particular years-long project had me and my team traveling worldwide managing the migration of around 25,000 servers and PCs to a new operating system. At each location, numerous contractors would join us for a week, attend a training and work with our team. Looking back, I realize those contractors were actually the start of what today has been dubbed the gig economy.

Fast forward to 2018.

Companies today are outsourcing much, if not most, of their IT needs. Some are trying their hand at the offshore model and their results are being met with mixed reviews, but where I see long-term need — whether in-house or outsourced — is in the areas of cloud, IT automation and artificial intelligence. Technology professionals today should be learning something in one of these key areas in order to stay ahead, and staffing firms placing professionals like me should be doing the same.

The constant refresh. Imagine doing the same job year after year without growing your skill set. In IT, if you don’t stay ahead of the learning curve and pick up new technologies, you quickly become outdated. Everyone wants to know what you bring to the table. If you’ve been exposed to any of the latest technologies. Anyone who hasn’t kept up will be a hard sell against the candidates who have dedicated themselves to continuously learning and who bring a fresh and usable set of technology skills to an organization.

Being part of the gig economy — especially as an IT consultant — is part of a much larger learning ecosystem that centers around the exposure and the benefit of new projects and constantly evolving skills and technologies. None of this would be made possible from a permanent, full-time desk — “the safe route,” as we like to call it. The ability to earn more, set your own schedule and learn something new every day are all by-products of the gig economy, and I’m convinced they contribute to happier, better-performing and more engaged workers — especially in IT.

Future of consulting. IT consulting is evolving once again as employers look for trusted consultants who can hit the ground running and make good on project deliverables. Enterprises need to see results. And getting a good gig still takes effort, despite the low unemployment rate in our field, and scoring a good project largely depends on our reputation and ability to demonstrate ourselves as an industry leader and a pacesetter: “What have you done recently?”

Be the partner. Part of the solution is working with good firms that go beyond the traditional staff augmentation model — firms that act as guides to companies and their consultants — and do not view us or the company they’re placing us with as one-time placements, but as partners. This firm should be one that knows us by name, knows where our skill sets would be of the most value and will match us with companies and projects that will continue to advance us in our career. All that is the ideal.

But I am still seeing recruiters attempting to blindly match LinkedIn profiles to job descriptions. When I receive these unsolicited emails or calls asking if I or “someone you know” can fill the job — I run, and advise others to do the same. These organizations will not be the ones to position us for long-term success. The gig economy is ripe for the reaping; I and others like me will partner with firms that will build a relationship with us, and together, we can make the most of this fantastic IT consulting market we’re in.

What about your firm? Will I want to partner with you? Or run? It’s up to you.