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What to Consider When Deciding Between a Contract or Full-Time Position

This post was originally published on 01/17/17 and updated on 10/18/18.

The hiring market has shifted over the past few years. Today, unemployment numbers are historically low and one in three employees works on a contract or freelance basis. The contingent workforce is a growing phenomenon, especially for those who work in tech and IT and located on the west coast.

Let us help! Here are 4 things to consider when deciding between a contract or full-time position:

1. You’ll have a better sense of your career trajectory in a permanent position.

Getting hired as a full-time, permanent employee is often the first step in moving up the corporate ladder. If you’re looking to fulfill a certain track in your career—such as staying at the same company for years, forming strong relationships with your coworkers and bosses, and/or expanding your benefits—go for those permanent positions.

Ask yourself if that’s important to you. There’s a level of stability and growth that’s unique to a permanent, full-time job. Staying at a company for an extended period of time will open you up to more responsibilities and chances at leadership. And leadership is about people—when employers look to hire up internally, they’re looking for employees who are not only skilled in their field but have the interpersonal and managerial skills necessary to lead. If you’ve been at a company for years, your bosses are likely to notice that you’re up to the task.

In a permanent role, you can expect a greater benefits package that includes health insurance, paid time off, and pay raises that increase and improve over time. But don’t assume that’s not the case if you’re a contractor—consultants can and often do get a very good benefits package to make their time worthwhile. It’s up to you to decide which one is the best fit for your lifestyle.

2. Contracting jobs expose you to dynamic work and new technologies.

Contract work, especially in the tech, engineering, and IT sector tends to be more dynamic. If you’re looking to expand your skill-set, learn new technologies, and be exposed to interesting and unique work, take a stab at contracting for a few years.

As a contractor, you may have the opportunity to join an exciting project at a reputable company, advance your skills, make an impact, and leave on your own terms. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door at a cutting-edge company and make an impressive mark on your resume. Do this at a variety of companies for a number of years, and you’ll find that you’ve become a very desirable candidate—you’ll build up stellar experience and become adaptable to all kinds of environments. This diversity of experience won’t be afforded to you if you stay in the same place for years.

Plus, contractors are typically paid at a higher rate, and most importantly, they’re paid on an hourly basis. If you end up putting in long hours to get a project done, you’ll be sure to get compensated for every one of those hours you’ve worked.

3. Organizational “fit” isn’t dependent on the type of position—it depends entirely on the company itself.

Company culture is important to any job. But don’t assume that you’re not going to fit in with a team’s dynamics just because you’re a contractor! It’s sometimes the case with larger enterprise companies that do a lot of specialized work in which the distinction between contractors and full-time hires is pronounced—full-time employees have more access to exclusive facilities, insider information, and greater privileges.

But in other cases, contractors and full-time employees are treated exactly the same. These contractors are like any other new hire who fully integrates into their team, will be there for a long time, and will help make the company succeed.

During your job interview, be sure to learn about company culture and organizational fit to determine what you may experience if you’re offered a job. And that’s across the board, regardless of industry. Make sure to interview your interviewers— their company’s mission, their office culture, and how their teams work together.

4. Contract work can be permanent; permanent positions can be temporary.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest perks of a contract position is that once you’re done with that project, you’re no longer beholden to that employer, and your time is your own. Do you love to travel? You can leave a completed project on excellent terms on June 30th and be on a plane headed across the country on July 1, no questions asked. Come back, check in with your recruiter, and we’ll have you well on your way to landing another job.

But for those who consider themselves to be risk-averse, this impermanent aspect of contract employment may actually be unappealing. If that sounds like you, be sure to understand that there’s a lot of variety in the types of contract positions offered! We’ve seen contractors get put on projects for years at a time. That’s considerable job security, and in many cases, that’s how long permanent employees stay at their companies before moving on. Remember that while full-time positions don’t come with an end date, nothing is guaranteed. Life happens, and you sustain a certain amount of risk in accepting any job offer.

Many employers choose to convert contractors into full-time employees. This “contract-to-hire” scenario can be predetermined at the beginning of the engagement or discussed as the agreement comes to an end. This means that once you’ve successfully completed your term as a contractor, the employer could offer you a position to keep you on full-time and transition you to become their own employee.

When these situations are predetermined, recruiters (like VanderHouwen) have already talked to contractors ahead of time to understand whether the path of contract-to-hire interests them. If starting out as a contractor with the potential of becoming a full-time employee of the client is of interest, then we’re more than happy to encourage that transition. Ultimately, these decisions are about keeping our candidates and clients happy and fulfilled by prioritizing each of their best interests.

Considering moving into a full-time position after your contract is up? Think of your time as a contractor as your opportunity to see if this is the company you want to be with long term. Make sure the position is the right fit for you. Is it the right salary? Are the benefits what I need? What aspects of working as a contractor will I miss if I take on a full-time role?

The 2019 hiring landscape.

Job market trends tend to ebb and flow with the economy. For businesses, bringing in consultants allows for flexibility and agility from project to project. For individuals, the abundance of contracting opportunities allows consultants to pursue projects that can be both financially lucrative and personally exciting. Contracting also gives both the company and the consultant a chance to “test the waters”  work together to assess whether it’s a good mutual fit before making a long-term commitment. And, because the job market is thriving, hiring teams typically have the means to bring on successful consultants full-time if the contracting relationship proves to be fruitful.

Which type of employment is right for you?

At VanderHouwen, when we sit down with our candidates, it’s our priority to get a sense of what parameters of employment they’re interested in. What do they look forward to in a job? What skills are they trying to build? What trajectory are they looking for in their career? What fulfills them? We’ll use that insight to find positions and make recommendations.

One specific parameter we focus on with our candidates is whether they’re interested in contract work, a full-time/permanent position, or both. While the availability of these positions depends on a variety of factors—the job market, sector of employment, the hiring company’s needs—it’s ultimately a decision left to the candidate.

When it comes to contract or full-time work, we want to help you make an informed decision. It may be the case that while a candidate has told us they’re only interested in full-time work, a contract position comes along that’s perfectly suited to their interests and skillsets and would be a fantastic opportunity. We want to ensure that before you move forward with an application or offer, you’ve taken some time to determine what each position entails.

Contracting is the new norm.

The way companies hire is constantly changing. As a job seeker, don’t limit the types of work you’re looking at! Keeping your mind open to many kinds of employment, whether it’s a full-time position or a contract role, allows you to get exposure to unique opportunities and find a company and work environment that’s a great fit for your skills and experience.

Now that you’re informed, dive into our job board and start applying for positions.