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April 28, 2011
Turning Temp/Contract Work Into a Permanent Job
 
Great news! You’ve landed either temporary or contract work, which suddenly has taken so much stress off of you from looking for a job. 

Now you can pay the bills, settle in, and concentrate your focus on getting up to speed and making valuable contributions.

But what’s the worst thing that can happen at this point?

Becoming complacent in this moment of opportunity. 

But first, let’s be clear. Contract or temporary work does NOT guarantee a future at the company. It is exactly that: a stretch of employment that has a finite end to it, and you’re going to have to deal with an end point sooner or later.

Despite not being a permanent employee, you have something vastly more powerful in your career arsenal right now than the unemployed job seekers:

You have a foot in the door.
You are a known quantity.
And you have a chance to prove yourself.

If you are seeking permanent work and accept part-time, contract, or temp employment, you should be focused on doing quality work as job #1, and as job #2, you should be looking for opportunities to secure a longer-term position within the employer.

There are several ways to position yourself and take advantage of this opportunity to potentially extend your employment with this company. Here are five tips on how to transform temp/contract work into the possibility of being retained as a full-time, regular employee:

1) Think and act like an employee genuinely interested in mission and bottom line of company.  If you just show up, do your job, and complete only the minimum of what is asked of you…well, you’ve just painted yourself into a very small box that doesn’t show much dynamism. While you have to be aware of not stepping on toes, if you truly do find a new way to save the company money or help them in any way, be sure to make sure you let the key supervisor know. They’ll appreciate it.

2) Provide status reports to all key stakeholders in a timely, concise way. Sometimes, as a temp/contract employee, you won’t be a regular part of the staff team, and you could get left out of what is the normal information flow. By taking the initiative on communications, you also demonstrate your strong skills in this area, and provide critical updates to projects.

3) Step up. If possible and you can manage the added work, request additional tasks. This will give you a broader knowledge of company operations, strengthen your bench skills, bring you into more contact with a larger number of decision makers and co-workers, and it shows your initiative.

4) Ask to be hired full-time. If a staff opening for which you are qualified comes up while you are employed on a temp/contract basis, don’t be afraid to talk to the key decision maker for that position to let them know about your interest in the job. You don’t want to be too aggressive, but at the same time, this isn’t the moment to suddenly be a wallflower and hope that they “pick” you. If you don’t tell them of your interest, they don’t know.

5) Propose a job if the timing is right. Many employers have cut back staffing to the bare minimum due to the economy, but as things ease up a bit, they might be more receptive to adding back positions. If the timing seems right, and you can see a clear need that you could fulfill as a full-time worker, schedule a time to talk to the decision maker and make your proposal.

If none of these tactics work, and the part-time/contract work truly has an inevitable end date, then you should concentrate on doing the best job possible for the employer. Then, several weeks before the scheduled end date, set up a time with your supervisor, discuss your interest in their company and field, and if they seem willing, ask them about who they would recommend talking to about possible full-time employment in that same field. Always remember to thank them for the opportunity to work at their company, and make them feel that if a position were to come open, you would prefer to work at their organization based on the positive experience you’ve while you’ve been there.

You never know where this can lead!

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Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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