Posted on Scientific Staffing. 13 May, 2017
While recovery from the 2008 economic downturn has been slow, there is one section of the economy where hiring is booming – temporary work or contract employment. Contract employment is essentially temporary work, where the employee works under a contract that stipulates the nature of the work, length of employment, and compensation. Contract assignments can range from a few months to several years in duration.
According to a recent study by a pair of Princeton and Harvard professors, workers in “alternative” employment situations such as temp-agency workers and independent contractors accounted for “all of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015.” This “freelance” or “free agent” section of the economy has expanded to encompass nearly every field – from construction worker to aerospace engineer. In today’s economy, it you have the skills to do a job in a particular field, you can find work in that field as a contract employee.
Temporary or contract workers have in fact become an integral part of the workforce, and for good reason. This type of arrangement offers a number of appealing benefits for both employer and employee. Employers are looking to develop a more flexible workforce to allow for better business agility, and at the same time, employees are looking for more freedom and flexibility in their working arrangements. The synergy of these two trends is the engine that is driving the boom in contract employment.
Once perceived as lower level employment, contract or temporary work is now highly regarded by even the most skilled and experienced professionals in many different industries. Far from being just an unappealing option that job candidates have to settle for while they search for more permanent employment, contract employment is becoming an end unto itself for many job seekers. Let’s explore some of the reasons why workers are turning to contract employment in increasing numbers.
Benefits of Temporary Work
Temporary work is coming into its own as modern technology connects employers and employees in ways that make it easier for them to find each other. Some of the numerous benefits that temporary work can provide include:
Gain Freedom and Flexibility. The ability to stay abreast of job openings using job boards and other internet technologies allows contract job seekers to piece together their professional life in a manner that best suites them. Temporary or contract positions can vary in duration, location, daily hours, days off, etc., allowing you to arrange your work schedule to reflect when and where you want to work. Since businesses always need temporary help, you can easily have steady work as a contract employee if that is what you want. Often, contract workers can also maintain a better work/life balance than full-time staff, as they aren’t expected to put in that demanding 60-hour work week. You can simply do your job well for the time you are on contract for, and then go home. Contract employment typically attracts individuals who are drawn to the freedom, independence and self-governance it offers.
Create a Pathway to Permanent Employment. Contract employment allows you to get your foot in the door with the company you want to work for and position yourself as the best candidate for a full-time position when it arises. According to statistics published by the American Staffing Association (ASA), over one-third (35%) of contract employees are offered permanent positions by employers that they work for on contract. Even if a temporary engagement does not lead to a permanent position at your chosen company, the experience you gain can help you land a long-term position in another company. At the very least, contract work allows you to gain work experience in your chosen field.
Grow Your Skills and Explore Different Careers. Contract work provides the opportunity to explore different career fields or positions within a company. If you don’t yet know what you want to do with your life, this can be a great way to explore different options to help you figure out where you want to go. If you are looking for a career change, contract work can help you gain practical work experience and build the skills necessary to open the door to another industry.
Create Your Own Job Security. One of the best kept secrets of contract employment is this: once you become skilled at creating work for yourself when you want it, you actually have more job security than permanent employees. In today’s challenging business environment, thinking you have job security just because you have a so-called “permanent” position is a mistake. Things change, and these days, things change often. The only real security today is to build your job skills, professional network, and ability to find work when you need it. Contract employment is a great step towards building the kind of professional agility you need to thrive in the modern economy.
Make More Money. Another secret of contract employment is that you can sometimes actually make more money as a contractor than as a permanent employee. Some contract positions require specialized skills and are hard to fill. Employers are generally willing to pay contract employees generously if they have the necessary skills and experience to succeed in these kinds of positions, as it lets them bypass the learning curve stage that a less experienced worker would require.
Boost Your Resume. Employers are cautious about hiring people with long periods of unemployment on their resumes. Contract positions allow you to fill holes in your resume with job titles while you are between permanent jobs. Additionally, working as a contract employee shows hiring managers that you take your career seriously, and that you are willing to do what is necessary to keep your skills sharp and improve yourself while you look for a permanent job. Contract jobs also allow you to develop new skills that will enrich your CV.
Focus on the Work. Forget the office drama. As a contract worker, you often have the ability to bypass staff meetings not directly related to your job, and are better able to stay out of any office drama or politics occurring at your place of employment. Instead, you can mostly focus on the work you were hired to do. As HR professional Allison Grace said after leaving her 15 year permanent employee job for contract and project-based work, “It was like a switch went off in my head and I immediately switched from employee mode to contractor mode,” she said. “I wasn’t bothered as much by the nonsense going on in the office and the office politics. There is almost a feeling of being able to rise above it all and not get mired down in it, which I really enjoy.”
Grow Your Network. Building your professional network is always a good idea, as you never know where a contact will lead you. The employer you are working for may not have a permanent position available to offer when your contract is up, but if you have done a good job, you will leave with professional contacts that will recommend you for a future job and/or provide a reference. As your network of professional contacts grows, so does your ability to find your next contract or permanent position.
Benefits of Pursuing Temporary Work with a Staffing Firm
As the economy has changed over the last several decades in the U.S. and alternative work arrangements like temporary contract employment have become more prevalent, staffing firms have proliferated as well. Businesses of all types and sizes are now partnering with staffing firms to increase workforce flexibility and gain access to more talent. Staffing firms work to help employers and employees connect with each other more easily to form mutually beneficial work arrangements, and all staffing firms these days offer contract employment as one of the staffing options available.
In order to actualize and maximize the above-described benefits that contract employment offers, it is wise to partner with a quality staffing firm. Some of the ways that working with a staffing firm will benefit you as you explore contract employment include:
Free Coaching. Staffing firms provide their services to you for free. They get paid by the employers when you get hired, so they are motivated to get you hired! Quality staffing firms provide you with free coaching and advice on resume preparation, interview skills, writing thank you letters, changing careers, etc. Staffing firms can also provide you with industry-specific information, including insights into market trends and in-demand skills.
Access to Jobs. The number of employers who work with staffing firms has grown dramatically in the last several decades. Many potential employers have outsourced much or even all of their HR department to staffing companies. These kinds of employers will usually only talk to potential job candidates through the staffing agencies that they have partnered with. As such, staffing firms have access to a wide array of jobs that are not available through traditional job searches. Additionally, staffing firms have well-established connections with many employers and specialize in knowing about job openings. Working with a staffing firm will thus dramatically expand the number of contract jobs that are available to you, far beyond what you could become aware of through your own efforts. Instead of spending hours searching for jobs every day, working with a staffing firm allows you to focus your efforts on preparing for actual interviews.
Health Coverage and Benefits. When you engage with a staffing firm to find contract employment, you actually become an employee of the staffing company when an employer hires you. Quality staffing firms provide you with a highly competitive benefit package that will continue on into your next contract job. In this way, you can establish a career as a contract employee with benefits that rival any permanent employee position.
Once considered to be a kind of second class employment, temporary contract work has come of age in today’s changing economy to become an important part of the employment ecosystem. The rise of quality staffing firms offering contract employment as an option has helped to solidify its new first class status amongst savvy job seekers. According to data from the ASA, more than three million temporary and contract employees work for America’s staffing companies during an average week. Additionally, the ASA reports that during the course of a year, America’s staffing companies hire nearly 15 million temporary and contract employees in virtually all sectors.
Temporary contract work has many benefits, both personal and professional, for those who pursue this employment option. If you like freedom and flexibility in your professional life, new experiences and new career insights, and improved professional agility and security, contract employment may be just the career move you’ve been looking for. Whatever professional pathways you personally choose to walk, it is clear that contract employment is here to stay as a compelling option in the American workforce.
About the Author
|Jennifer Best is the Managing Director of Astrix Technology Group’s Technical Staffing Division and is a recruiting and industry expert in the Scientific, Bioinformatics, and Information Technology fields. She joined Astrix in 2009 where she has been responsible for the startup and growth of the Division into an emerging leader in the Scientific field. Ms. Best graduated from the University of Cincinnati with her BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. She began her career in Science as a Molecular Immunology Researcher at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. Ms. Best also oversees Staffing and Recruiting activity for the Federal Biowatch Program partnering with the Department of Homeland Security.|
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