Why Contracting May Be Your Next Move
If you are one of the millions of Americans who were laid off, let go, or are otherwise looking for work in this sluggish economy, you are not alone. While you may feel a kinship with your fellow unemployed, you may also feel the rivalry. Today, there are just too many people vying for the too-few positions. If you’ve been at the job search for awhile now, you may be tempted to take on a consulting or contracting post. After all, some money in the pocket is better than none at all. Or is it? If you take a contract position, will it help or hurt your chances of landing a permanent position? Will it make you look resourceful or desperate? How does contract work look on a resume? Does your personality fit short-term employment? These are all necessary questions to ask yourself before taking the contractor plunge.
If you’re contemplating a contract position or temp work, but are worried about how it will affect your long-term prospects, you may be surprised to discover there are countless benefits to calling yourself a contractor. Here are the top reasons to consider contract work, and what to watch out for if you do.
Get hired faster. In this uncertain marketplace, the "perfect" permanent position may be hard to locate and nearly impossible to secure. For many companies, it is a safer bet to hire contractors on a short-term basis than invest in hiring permanent staff. Contract positions are often easier to fund, simpler to justify, and a viable option for an organization during uncertain economic times and choppy markets.
Try before you buy. Consulting work can serve as an entrée into an organization, a different type of job, or even a new industry. It is a great way to try something different without the commitment of a long-term position. Management has the opportunity to see you in action: how you do the job and fit into the organization and culture. If they like what they see, they may offer you a permanent job.
Slide in under the radar. In a tough economy, companies can afford to be selective. Hiring managers may not even look at candidates for permanent positions unless they meet certain criteria (e.g. only those with a Master's degree from an Ivy League school). Contract work can be a way to help you bypass the stringent hiring criteria and gain access to an organization that might not have otherwise considered you for employment.
Since hiring managers filling contract spots are looking for a particular skill set or project experience – not a pedigree – you may be exactly what they need to solve their short-term needs. Once you have your foot in the door, you can prove to be an invaluable addition to the team.
Build your resume. Look at consulting work as a way to round out your work experience. If you've always worked in the accounting department at insurance companies, branch out and apply for work in different industries. You'll be hired for possessing a certain skill – such as your knowledge of a particular software – but you can learn much more about an alternative industry while on the job, and in the process make yourself more attractive to other hiring managers.
Boost your confidence. Work, even short-term posts, can change your attitude. You feel more confident and you're bringing home a paycheck. Even if it isn't the exact work you're looking for, going to work every day can make you feel much better about yourself and your job search.
Expand your network naturally. Working in a corporate setting introduces you to new colleagues, clients, and vendors. You can build your network – and utilize those connections – in a natural way. Instead of making cold calls, use your new associations to help uncover opportunities and leads to permanent positions.
Nix the negative stereotype. Years ago, hiring managers looked down upon those candidates who took contract assignments. This is no longer the case. In fact, contract work is becoming an important niche in the corporate world and contract employees are considered a valuable asset to a company's hiring strategy.
Find your calling. Some people thrive in a contract setting. They like the quick ramp-up time, focused objective, finite obligation, and challenge of solving a short-term business need. They also enjoy the freedom of being able to move on to the next opportunity.
WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD
Less job security. Since contract work is short-term, you always need to worry about where your next job is coming from (unless, of course, you land a contract-to-perm position).
Benefits take a hit. In most contract positions, benefits are not included or are not comparable to those offered to permanent employees. If you have a spouse with benefits, this may not be a drawback. You may also want to look into taking advantage of COBRA insurance options.
Employers aren't as loyal. If an organization begins to suffer financially, contractors are often amongst the first employees affected since they can be released more easily.
Your job search can be delayed. Taking a contract assignment can distract you from your permanent job search. If contracting is an interim employment solution for you, make sure you devote enough time each week to continue your search so you won't have to be out of work again.