Is a Contract Job the Solution?

Q. I have been looking for a job for almost two months, it seems like two years. I have the opportunity to take a contract job. It’s pretty good money and I can still keep looking or start the job search again when the contract is over. I’m getting mixed advice on whether this is a good idea or not. So, what do you think about taking contracts during the job search process – yes or no?

A. Two months into the job search is a tough place. You probably have all of the action oriented beginnings of the search ready. Your resume is complete, your LinkedIn profile looks good, you have a solid public statement, know your target market, and have started networking. By this point you’re not alone in being ready for the process to be over, but it isn’t. The jobs you want aren’t posted, people are slow to return calls and you’d rather be working.

Before you accept a contract position, ask yourself these questions.

What do you need/gain? If you need cash, the contract can be the answer in the short term. If you just want to be working and could use some extra cash, reconsider. Does the contract offer more than money? Do you gain experience in a new area? A new technology? A company where you have a significant interest? Do you connect with a group of people you’d like to be closer to? If you think you gain a job, you don’t. You gain a contract.
What do you lose? You lose momentum on the job search. Starting over will be hard, and your search will be prolonged. Most people want the contract to turn into full-time, even if they wouldn’t have accepted that same job as a full-time opportunity; they want to avoid the job search. You lose a clear message. Will your network think you are looking for contracts and to consult, or do they think you are looking for a full-time job. These are your field sales people. They need to know what your message really is.
Are there options? That is one question to ask. Does the contract need to be full-time? If the contract makes sense, can you propose a four day work week so that you can continue your search. Can you have full flexibility in your schedule to accommodate professional association events, networking and recruiter meetings, and interviews?
Is contracting a career choice? People choose to take contracts and consult as an alternative to “permanent” jobs. Others take a contract and find it easy to stay as long as they can, until they are approached by someone else about another contract, or the contract ends and they begin the search again.
The decision to take a contract or not, depends on the answers to these questions and more. Understand what you are signing up for, what you gain, lose, and what works best for you in the short and long term.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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