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Should YOU consider a contract or temp job?

strategic job search, strategic job seeking, job strategy, job seeking,
Have you thought about a contract, temporary or temp-to-hire job?

It used to be the norm for American professionals to work a full time job with benefits, but increasingly, companies are hiring contract, temporary or temp-to-hire workers instead of full-time employees. 

Do you understand the differences among these career alternatives and know whether you should apply for such openings? Depending on your situation, you might just find such options beneficial.

Employment options … the pros … the cons … and what’s right for you 

Contract Employment
Contract workers are often needed by companies to complete a large/lengthy project or to cover the duties of a permanent employee during a leave of absence. Contractors may also be needed long term when a company elects not to hire permanent staff for certain positions/duties. Contract employees usually work full time, but on a temporary basis. Generally they are paid at a higher hourly rate than the going rate for the same full time position because they don’t receive benefits from the company while employed or unemployment benefits if they are let go. Contract opportunities are usually for a specific period of time, but can be extended if both parties agree.

The pros:

  • It can provide a good income, sometimes for a long time.
  • Contract work can fill in a gap on your resume.
  • It can give you the opportunity to keep your skills sharp and stay employed.
  • It can give you the chance to meet decision makers, learn about openings and be considered for internal positions.

The cons:

  • Positions are not permanent and there are no guarantees that they will ever become so.
  • Long-term contractors are often the first to be let go if a company reduces head count, plus, contractors typically aren’t eligible to receive unemployment payments.
  • Generally contractors do not receive benefits from the hiring company or staffing agency, so they have to look elsewhere for coverage. Taxes may also be higher. Contact your tax preparer to learn more.
  • Short contract stints can complicate your resume (a resume writer can help work through that complexity). See Services page to learn about resume creation options.
  • Taking a contract position may make it harder for you to apply for, or accept, a full-time job (since you are involved in the contract position).

What’s right for you?
Do your prospects for getting hired full time seem remote?  Are you in a field that strongly trends toward contract work, such as IT? Can you get benefits through other sources, such as through your spouse’s company? Then by all means, look into contract positions. On the other hand, if you think a full-time job offer could be imminent or you cannot get affordable benefits except through an employer, you may want to wait for a permanent offer.

Temporary Employment
Temporary positions may range from a half-day gig up to month-long or even years-long stints depending on the needs of your staffing agency’s client companies. A temporary employee is generally employed and paid by the staffing firm. Pay varies by position, but typically is lower than contract, temp-to-hire, or full time pay because the focus of a temp opportunity is to cover a position or handle duties for a time, not to make a continual positive impact on business.

The pros:

  • It can fill a gap on your resume.
  • Temporary work can provide income while job searching.
  • It can provide opportunities to keep your skills sharp and stay active.
  • It can give you a chance to work in a variety of companies and to easily hop from a bad job situation to a better one.
  • Its temporary nature may allow you to have a more flexible schedule and fewer pressures than a full-time position.

The cons:

  • Positions are temporary and there are no guarantees you will ever be considered for a permanent position.
  • Because of the fleeting nature of temporary assignments, the work may be sporadic or non-existent. Keep in constant contact with your staffing agency between gigs because the (nice!) squeaky wheel tends to get temporary assignments.
  • Pay may be low and the work may be more basic / tedious than a full-time or contract position in your field.
  • If you stay too long in the temporary world, you might not be considered a viable candidate for positions in your field.

What’s right for you?
If you like flexibility, variety and getting out of the house, taking on temporary positions might be a great way to earn extra income while continuing your career search. But, if temporary stints could disrupt your search for the right job, you may want to forgo temp work and concentrate on landing a full time job in your field.

Temp-To-Perm Employment
Hiring companies typically intend to hire a temp-to-hire worker full time, but haven’t committed to doing so yet. While the worker is in the temp-to-hire period, he or she works for, and is paid by, the staffing agency and usually does not receive benefits (although some agencies do offer limited benefits).

The pros:

  • Despite the lack or limitation of benefits, such a set up can allow you and the hiring companies to see how well the position and company suits you. Once you are offered a full time position, you will be paid by, and (if applicable) receive benefits from, the hiring company.
  • Temp-to-hire pay is typically more per hour than full time pay, however there are limited or no benefits and your taxes may be higher than if you had the position full time. Contact your tax preparer for details.

The cons:

  • Waiting for a temp-to-hire position to become a full-time job can be frustrating and the full-time job may never materialize.

What’s right for you?
If the right full-time job with benefits is not on your horizon, look into temp-to-hire positions. The company that contracts for you on such a basis believes you are right candidate for the job. However, they want to see how you will do in the position. They may also be working out the details of getting you hired with upper management (if unforeseen circumstances don’t alter the situation). By taking a temp-to-hire position, you can receive a steady paycheck, establish relationships within the company and prove you are the right person for the job.

Where to find such jobs
Staffing/temp agencies and executive search firms tend to be the source for most contract, temporary and temp-to-hire positions. You can also find such openings posted on online job sites. 

Find a list of job sites (including several of the biggest U.S. and St. Louis, MO staffing/temp agencies sorted by category), on the Job Sites page of Getajobtips.com. 

Other employment terms
A consultant is high-level expert who advises a company about how to solve their problems or address an issue for a fee (often a very high fee). He/she is usually not responsible for the actual work required for the company to benefit from his/her wisdom. On the other hand, a contractor is a specialist who performs assigned duties on a contractual basis.

Unlike a contractor who typically works full time (but temporary) for one company, a freelancer usually works from his/her own location and serves multiple clients on an hourly basis.

Direct hire positions are permanent, full time positions usually with benefits. The hiring company uses a staffing agency or its own internal recruiters to find a candidate and then hires him/her directly. Once a candidate is offered a direct hire position, he or she becomes a paid (permanent) employee of the hiring company and is eligible for benefits like any other full-time employee within its organization.

You may notice that I use the words “usually”, “typically”, and “generally” a lot when describing career alternatives because hiring companies may use different titles and offer different compensation packages for their positions. Get the details of any offer of employment –temporary or permanent – in writing ahead of time so there will be no surprises.  

Have you tried temp, temp-to-hire, or contract work to further your career? How did it work out for you? Share your stories, questions and wisdom! Thanks, Kathy


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