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Championing Contract Assignments

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By: William Peek, IT Recruiter 

If you are like many jobseekers, the idea of working “contract” or temporary assignments may not be an appealing proposition. You may be concerned about the longevity of contract roles, or that including contract assignments on your resume will be a red flag to potential employers. These and other myths can prevent job seekers from taking advantage of the benefits that contract and contract-to-hire roles can provide.

Contract work is a growing part of the United States’ economy. A poll released by Marist and NPR in 2018 found that 20% of jobs in the U.S. are being filled by contract – or freelance – employees. The poll further suggests that, within the next decade, contractors and freelancers may account for as much as 50% of the nation’s workforce.

As someone who has firsthand experience working in contract positions and who now recruits contract employees for FGP clients, I think it’s helpful to share my personal experiences and professional perspective to dispel some common misconceptions.

Myth #1: Contract work is a dead-end.

Candidates are often surprised by how many temporary assignments become full-time roles. The reason for this is that companies view contract or contract-to-hire positions as great onboarding opportunities. They may be “piloting” a role in order to justify it as a full-time position. These short-term opportunities allow both the candidate and the company to become acclimated to one another, ensuring the right fit. Candidates who bring value to the organization as a contractor are in a much stronger position to be hired when a permanent role is available.

I have found that working with the right recruiter can relieve any anxiety about the longevity of contract and contract-to-hire roles. At FGP, for example, our recruiters are focused on keeping in touch with candidates on a regular basis. While working contract roles, my recruiter continued searching for new opportunities on my behalf.

Myth #2: Contract roles are “resume ruiners.”

In fact, the opposite is true. Taking on temporary assignments during the search for a permanent role is a great way to build your resume. After graduating from college with a degree in business administration, I worked contract assignments in various industries, including insurance, nonprofit, financial services and education, while I searched for a permanent role. In addition to providing income, these assignments allowed me to build my resume and my skillsets which, ultimately, made me a more marketable candidate. The hands-on experience also helped me identify what I was interested in and, equally important, what I was not interested in, over a relatively short period of time.

This principle also holds true for experienced professionals who are seeking to make a career change. Contract work can afford professionals the opportunity to build their portfolio of work, making them more attractive to their new target industries. In turn, this allows them the ability to be more selective when choosing to pursue a long-term opportunity based on professional fit.

Myth #3 Contract assignments are not recognized as “real jobs.”

Now, more than ever, contract roles are becoming part of many companies’ overall talent mix. Organizations are aligning with the changing values of a new workforce, and they recognize that short-term, nonpermanent assignments can be attractive options for a Millennial workforce that values career flexibility. In fact, a Gallup Workplace poll found that employee turnover among Millennials is costing companies $30.5 billion a year in recruitment and training costs. As a result, companies are looking at temporary assignments as a way to manage this turnover.

Myth #4: Contract employees are not eligible for benefits.

While benefit structures can vary from company to company, working through a recruitment agency does have advantages. FGP, for example, provides contract employees with benefits based on the length of their contract term. Hiring companies may also offer technical support, such as laptops and access to software, and may even factor in travel and temporary housing costs into their compensation agreement.  

Keep an open mind.

In addition to technical skills, contract work helped me build soft skills. Working in various contract roles allowed me to experience a variety of management styles and team dynamics. These short-term opportunities taught me how to focus my energy on making the biggest impact in the shortest period of time. To top it all off, I was able to build a diverse network of personal contacts!

In the end, it was my willingness to take on a contract role that led to my full-time role as a recruiter at FGP. The company saw what I had to offer as a contractor and built a role around my specific skills. Ironically, had I applied for my current position as an outside candidate armed only with a business degree, I may not have been invited to interview. Whether you are just starting out in your career or you’re seeking to make a change, consider including contract assignments in your search portfolio. You may be surprised at the opportunities that open up.