“Make sure you know the answer before asking the question,’’ that’s often my answer when contractors ask if and when and how they should approach their contract employer about permanent work. Don’t pester your employer, especially if it’s a company you like. Think of it like a courtship; you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date. You need time to get to know the company, the people, and anticipate how they are going to react when you ask the question. Following the tips below will help you tactfully navigate the bridge between temp and perm.
Do your best work
The first step is to do what you should be doing anyhow; be punctual, work hard, show initiative, be thorough, follow up, be open to feedback; doing your best work will put you at the front of the line if and when the position becomes permanent.
Communicate with your agency
Communicate with your recruiter early and often. You need to ask your recruiter – not the company – how you are doing. Do they like me? Is there anything I should be working on? These answers are not only important feedback that will help you improve, but will also help you to gauge the potential for long-term work. Why ask your agent and not the company? Honesty. Sometimes the employer will be more direct with a third party and you want to hear the truth. It’s in your recruiter’s best interest to be sure both you and their client are happy, and they will do what they can to make it a lasting fit.
When it’s time to know
There will come a point when you need more information to ensure that you are making the best decisions for your career, but when is the time right? In this market, when companies are busy and still understaffed, six to nine months seems to be the magic number. Much earlier than that, and it could be perceived as premature. Schedule time and talk with your supervisor about your future. Be well prepared for the meeting and share examples of how you have added value during your contract assignment. Say that you would like to work for the organization; you are not quite getting down on bended knee, but it is your proposal for permanent work. Remind them of how good the last few months have been – and pop the question – “Is there an opportunity for me to join this company and if so, what do I need to do to earn the role?’’ The answer will be yes, not right now, or no.
Your hard work and commitment have paid off and you are on your way to a permanent role with a company you like and in a place you know you can succeed. Start the conversation by getting a time commitment from your boss. You don’t want this to be a five year engagement – you need to pick a date, and at the same time remain patient and respectful. Express your gratitude at the decision and ask when they were hoping to make the transition.
After the ‘yes’
After you get the green light, the real planning begins, so try and make it easy for your boss and everyone involved. With your boss’s blessing, head over to HR to see what they need to make your move official, and handle as many of the steps as you can yourself. The easier it is for everyone, the faster your official new role will fall into place. Don’t be surprised, though, if it feels like you are starting from scratch. You may have to complete an application, pass a background check, and fill out several forms. Make sure you understand the timing of your transition, the communication of your change in status and what’s included in your compensation package.
Not right now
“Not right now’’ is what a lot of people will hear. Because of market volatility, many companies are not in the position to increase headcount, making them reluctant to commit. This does not mean they don’t want to – maybe it’s a public company and they are graded on headcount – contractors don’t add to headcount, but permanent employees do.
‘Not right now’ really means ‘not right now’
If this is your answer, ask yourself the question – am I OK in this scenario? Can we continue doing this until they are ready to make it official? Or should I start looking for other opportunities? No one can make this decision for you, but whatever you do, don’t start playing games. Don’t take interviews for jobs you aren’t interested in or pretend you have alternative opportunities if you don’t. This passive aggressive behavior might make your contract employer jealous, or worried about your departure, but it’s still not going to force them into hiring you. You are much more likely to alienate them and find yourself without any employment, perm or contract.
Maybe the answer was no is because the company simply can’t bring anyone on in a permanent role; maybe the position will always be a contract position for you, or anyone else. If that’s the case, you need to decide if you want to move onto a permanent role somewhere else. Maybe the no is because it’s not a good fit – “it’s not you, it’s me.’’ This might not be the answer you want, but at least you have the truth and you can think about your next move. Let the company know that you enjoy the work and you will continue if that’s what they want. Ultimately, you need to do what’s in your best interest, but keep it professional along the way; while it didn’t work out permanently, you were employed, your skills were exercised and you have strong experience to put on your resume.
Dealing with no
Once you have had the conversation with your manager and have a definitive no answer, it’s definitely time to step up your permanent job search. This won’t come as a surprise to the company, but how you handle yourself might. Handle yourself with professionalism, honesty and discretion. Don’t hide the fact when you have an interview, but have the courtesy to schedule it early or late in the day so there is minimal disruption to your work day or duties. Be discerning and don’t take every meeting that is presented to you; save your out-of-the-office time for important opportunities. Remember that you have a job that is paying you (hopefully well) and even though it’s a temporary role, it’s important to you and to the company. When you do find a new position, give the same courtesy as you would to a full-time role: tender your resignation, provide for a two-week notification and offer to help with the transition. You may be pressured by your agency or new employer to start immediately given this is “just a temp job,’’ but always be courteous and retain your good standing.
Updating your resume and LinkedIn profile
Many people ask whether or not to include contract work and temporary jobs on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles. My advice is always to include them. Be proud of the work you did and the company you were at. This is especially true if you were at the assignment for several months. List the company as your employer, include the time you were there and list all relevant bullet points. If your temporary work included more short-term gigs than month-long projects, list the agency (or agencies) first and then a brief outline of your assignments. There is no shame in working contract or temporary assignments – this type of work shows you are versatile, industrious, motivated and can jump into new situations and add value immediately.
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