Is a contract job a good move to make?

hourglassRecently clients have been asking me about the wisdom of taking a contract position, especially if they are thinking of leaving a permanent position. At least here in Ontario, where maternity leaves are 12 months long, there are plenty of interesting jobs available for a one-year contract. Think about pursuing a contract position and keep in mind that not all contracts are created equal.  

My advice – if the job seems something you are interested in – is to pursue the chance of an interview. It’s never a bad idea to have your resume up-to-date and practice your interviewing skills anyway! Then, IF the interview is going well and you have a chance to ask about the position, inquire into the nature of the contract relationship. Here are some possibilities:

  • A contract to cover someone’s leave (maternity, paternity, disability, sabbatical – many reasons.) Sometimes the recruiter has a good sense of whether or not the incumbent will be returning to this position. They can’t promise you it will be opening up, but they can talk about what the possibilities of full-time placement within the organization look like. Ask about the growth and the recent  hiring history.
  • A contract because the organization is hiring all new employees on contract. Some firms will hire on a short-term contract in order to give you and they a chance to check each other out. Inquire how many jobs are contracts as opposed to full-time permanent. In some companies, its not unusual for contracts to last for years.
  • A contract because its a new job or restructure. In this case, the leader may want to see if the role they have envisioned in theory is actually a realistic part of the team. They may be compiling miscellaneous tasks, shaving from others’ duties or creating something brand-new that is lacking. Whatever the case, beign the first person on contract can be good or bad. Good because you may get to shape the reality of the job. Bad because it may become obvious that this change is not going to implementable.
  • A contract because of funding. In non-profits and private sector alike, some jobs are contingent on funding. This isn’t always a negative – especially if part of your job is to secure more grants or prove the financial worth of the position. If doing a great job and monitoring results appeals to you, you might be the right person for this job. Sometimes a budget is squeezed just for a year and the financials will ease off later.

There may be many reasons the position you want is offered on contract. Stay open-minded. If you are thinking of joining a company, you have a right to know what you’re getting in to. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that full-time permanent means more security. These days there is little security beyond your own skills and abilities.

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