Contract Work as a Career Option

December 17, 2008 by Rose Cook

You can’t watch a news program or read a news article these days without hearing stories about people losing their jobs.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in  November alone, 533,000 U.S. jobs were lost across all major industries.  This was the largest single-month job loss since December 1974.  And, …because of the widespread impact, it’s definitely different this time around.  No longer just a distant news story, but rather, a personal experience or an emotional tale from a friend or family member.  Being in the staffing industry, I hear these personal stories almost every day and I wish I could help every one of them.

Here’s an option you or your loved ones may not have yet considered – Contract Work as a Career Option.  While the bleak economy is affecting employment as a whole, contract staffing continues to be a way for employers to get the necessary work done without committing long term to a full-time permanent hire.  While permanent employment showed a steady decline in 2008, temporary or contract staffing remained flat for the 1st three quarters.

For those of you new to the concept of contract staffing, it’s not just administrative or entry-level positions anymore.  Two of the fastest growing segments in contract staffing are the professional and technical sectors.  A surprising fact:  Over 11 million temporary and contract employees were hired by U.S. staffing firms in 2007.   These numbers include the “career contractors” who have chosen contract work on a regular and ongoing basis, and not just as a last resort.

What are the benefits of contract work?  Since the assignments are shorter in duration than a typical full-time permanent role (often 6-12 months,) you gain exposure to multiple companies or jobs in a shorter amount of time.  This gives you the opportunity to get experience in a variety of roles.   Have you always wanted to try a role in another area, but were reluctant to change your career path?  Contract work allows you to try something a little different.  I like to think about it as “career diversification”.  You know how your financial planner typically recommends a “diversified mix of stocks and bonds” to lower your financial portfolio risk?  Well, consider diversifying your career portfolio in the same way to lower your unemployment risk.

The varied contract roles will also expand your network of contacts – a key element to staying employed.  Gone are the days of submitting your resume on job sites and expecting an interview.  Networking is key.  The more people who know you and have benefited from your work, the better!  Why limit yourself to just one career path and a narrower set of contacts?  And if you decide at some point you want to return to a permanent position, some contract positions can be a possible bridge to permanent employment.

To access contract work, it’s best to register with a staffing firm.  You should not have to pay any fees.  Select a firm that specializes in your line of work or your particular industry and ask if the firm has relationships (or better yet, contract agreements) with companies in your industry.  Many contract positions never make it to a job board, so registering with a staffing firm gives you access to these positions.

Especially during these tough economic times, with companies embracing the concept of outsourcing via contract staffing, open up the possibilities and consider contract work as YOUR career option.  

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