The career benefits of HR contracting

by 30 Mar 2010

Q. I am considering HR Contracting as a potential career move as there are some attractive opportunities around right now. What are the benefits for me in contracting and how will potential employers view that experience on my resume?

A. Organisations employ contractors in a variety of capacities, often to maximise the value of flexible solutions. At any stage in your career, you can decide to take up contract work. But one of the biggest perceived drawbacks however is that once your contract has finished you might be back in the job market with no guarantee there will be another job waiting in the wings.

However, contracts often provide great learning opportunities and career enhancing benefits. If you choose your contracts well you can add value to your credibility and grow your expertise, which can only make you a more attractive candidate to future employers, especially in the current market place. Here is a summary of the value-add benefits that contracts can provide:

From little things, big things grow: Contracting can be a gateway to obtaining permanent employment or lead to extensions to other projects. So contracts are often used as stepping stones into companies where permanent recruitment processes can be very slow and ultra competitive.

Networking: Most contracts involve integrated and collaborative team work with great chances to meet new people and develop professional relationships. Also, contracts often involve partnership, mentorship and guidance with well respected HR leaders. If you decide that contracting is something that you would like to do for a long period of time, the network you build along the way will be very helpful.

Real career development: Contracting can strengthen your insight, knowledge and exposure to HR best practice by broadening and diversifying your skills across a variety of industries and companies. You will get to experience different team structures with a chance to work on interesting leading projects.

Relationship building skills: To enjoy contracting it is essential that you have great communication skills, can establish rapport and build credibility quickly. A successful contractor shows future employers that they are adaptable, are strong relationship builders and have high level influencing skills and commercial acumen.

Project implementation: Contracting often requires focus on the projects deliverables usually free from company politics and often without the day-to-day maintenance of transactional or operational matters which is often appealing to those who enjoy strategic project management.

Try before you buy: The end date of an assignment is not always a negative. It is a great way to experience the position within an organisation before committing to permanent employment.

Flexibility: Contracting can offer great flexibility around when you decide to work and can often offer part-time employment and job share. If you have the option, you can choose to take time off especially at the end of a lucrative assignment which works well for those looking for a work-life balance.

Competitive rates: For a lot of contractors, it is about the experience rather than the rate but it does help to make contracts that even more appealing when they often offer higher rates of pay relative to the same level position in the permanent market. In order to maximise your earning income ensure do your research on what is an appropriate market rate. Generally, contractors don’t receive company benefits and bonuses and if you do not accrue leave in your contract then ensure that it is factored into the pay rate you receive.

After considering your strengths, your personal circumstances and all that contracting has to offer you may decide that contracting is for you. If you are interested in discussing your options further- please feel free to contact me for a confidential discussion.

By Matthew Saitta, consultant, HR Partners, Sydney 02 9019 1600 email