The careerist: Contract to permanent

‘You need to start proving you are indispensable’

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Many people are happy to work on a temporary or contract basis. But if you want something longer term, how do you convince your employer you are worth hanging on to?

How do I start the process?

Focus on doing the temporary job well first. “Get in there, understand what is expected of you and really deliver,” says David Fleming, a director at professional services recruiter Badenoch & Clark. “You need to start proving that you are indispensable before you start looking for opportunities. Do the basics well, too – know the dress code and the values, be punctual and polite, and go in with the attitude that you need to prove yourself.”

How do I ensure any permanent roles come my way?

“Make an effort to build relationships so that if a permanent position arises, people think of you,” says Mr Fleming.

Think beyond the team you are on, says Sue Smith, a director at BIE Interim. “Talk to the HR department – they might have something elsewhere in the business. Get to know how the business works and make people aware of what you have been doing.”

Your networking should extend outside the company too, since partners and suppliers are all potential sources of longer-term employment.

Jane Barrett, career coach and co-author of If Not Now, When? How to Take Charge of Your Career, says: “If you are nearing the end of your contract, you need to think like a consultant: what are the other things you could do to improve company performance? Write a proposal – essentially you are trying to create a job for yourself.”

Some companies take on contract workers as a way of finding permanent staff. “People are less willing to conduct expensive searches at the moment,” says Ms Smith. “They take on temporary people, then offer them something more if it goes in the right direction.”

Ms Barrett adds: “It’s a little bit like a first date.”

Can I ask for a job, and what arguments can I use?

Choose your moment, says Mr Fleming. After you have built a rapport, “if someone congratulates you on a job well done or asks you how it’s going, that’s a good time to ask. Start by saying you really enjoy working there.”

Ms Barrett says: “If you have been somewhere six months, you will understand where you can add value and you have a proven track record. The likelihood is so much higher of it working out on both sides.”

Why might a company be wary of making a temp permanent?

“If you have been temping for 10 years, companies might be a bit cautious,” says Ms Barrett. “They worry that you’ll struggle to fit into the culture and with the bureaucracy.”

She adds that in a downturn they might be concerned that you are simply looking for a safe haven and, when the economic storm ends, you will go temporary again. “If you’ve been [temping] for a long time, you’ll really need to convince them.”

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