The long and short terms of career gain

I have three years’ HR experience across many areas and sectors, but in short-term posts. How do I sell the positive aspects of the experience I have gained? The short-term nature of the contracts has been cited as a reason for not getting new jobs. My current role is again contract, but for 18 months

Q. I have three years’ HR experience across many areas and sectors, but in short-term posts. How do I sell the positive aspects of the experience I have gained? The short-term nature of the contracts has been cited as a reason for not getting new jobs. My current role is again contract, but for 18 months.

A. Making the move from contracting to permanent work is a problem for professionals in many disciplines, affecting interim specialists looking for a change of pace, mid-level candidates who have worked in contracting after leaving a position through redundancy or the like, and more junior candidates who take contracting positions in the hope of gaining enough experience to secure a foothold in the permanent market.

Candidates with many short-term positions can find themselves being categorised as flighty, or having assumptions made about gaps in their skill set, or their overall ability, given that they haven’t been “snapped up” by one of the clients they have previously worked for on an interim basis.

Having said that, an 18 month contract in today’s market is often seen by clients as effectively a permanent role. But in order to secure a truly permanent role, the first thing you should do is look objectively at your skill set and experience to date and analyse the gaps? Do you have a specialist bias and is this something you want to eliminate or emphasize? Would you hire you for the roles you are applying for? If not, why not? Work on any areas of weakness to ensure that, contractor or not, you are still the strongest candidate for the roles you are applying for.

Next, you will need to address the gaps and potential objections – consider further study to cover any areas of potential weakness, or to cement your experience to date. A graduate diploma or certificate can demonstrate your capacity for learning as well as your long-term commitment to the HR profession.

Always be ready to confront the issue head on – be it in interview or on paper. Being able to effectively manage objections before they arise in relation to short-term assignments can be made easier by ensuring that your reasons for looking for permanent work are considered and well delivered.

Giving specific examples, both in your CV and in an interview, of end-to-end issues you have managed or contributed to in the roles you have had can help to show how each role has further developed your skill set and your capabilities. Outlining the skills that contracting work has developed in you as a candidate – project management abilities, adaptability to changing organisational cultures or experience working with individuals at all levels - is also an effective way to manage objections before they arise.

In interview and on paper, play to your strengths –look at roles with a strong project focus, or in organisations with an internal consultancy model.

And most importantly, don’t forget to utilise your existing network. Whilst the organisations you have worked for previously may not have had permanent vacancies at the time you were there, they may do now, or in the future. And if you’re in contact with members of the teams you worked with, you’re more likely to find out when vacancies arise. The agencies you have contracted through are also an excellent source of information and assistance – remember, you have proven yourself to them already – ask the temporary consultants you have dealt with to refer you to their permanent colleagues and put in a good word.

In an increasingly candidate-short market, clients are finding themselves in a position of being forced to consider candidates that they wouldn’t have done in the past. This means that candidates with a great deal of contracting experience who may not have been considered previously should be now. Contracting candidates can offer a great deal to a client - hopefully changing hiring priorities can alleviate the perception that some clients and consultants have of “interim bad, permanent good.”

By Claire McNamara, senior consultant at HR Matters

Recent articles & video

Alphabet layoffs later this year to be 'much smaller in scale': reports

Elon Musk: Jobs to be optional in 'benign' AI future

2 in 3 Australians OK with date change for Australia Day

Former security services firm fined for failing to act on Compliance Notice

Most Read Articles

1 in 8 new hires leaving during probation: report

FWC finds early notice of end to fixed-term contract amounts to dismissal

Spotless entities plead guilty to long service leave underpayments