“Second-class” employee, short-changed on employee benefits and a lack of recognition. These are a few of the stigmas of a contract role , which explains why only a small supply of talent are willing to take them on.
Contrary to popular belief, it may actually be beneficial for your career to accept a contract job, especially if you’ve been looking for a job for the last three months with no concrete offer in sight.
Why are job seekers hesitant to sign a contract offer?
One of the reasons is the belief that contract work lacks job security. Many contract jobs are on a 12-month term period, and workers have to restart the job search journey again six months into the role. This constant change is not particularly favoured by Hongkongers who prize job security.
Randstad Hong Kong’s 2019 Employer Brand Research noted that 39% of the respondents said they were willing to give up at least 10% of their salary in exchange for better job security. Hence there is no doubt that Asians workers will always seek the “iron rice bowl” - a career that provides job security, a steady income and solid employee benefits. Compared to contract work where income may not be as sustainable, permanent jobs generally can offer the promise of a stable salary to provide for daily needs and rainy days.
However, there are strong reasons why a career in contracting could be a good one for you.
why you should consider a contract position over a permanent job
1. job security
Many people feel that contract work lacks job security, but that is a myth.
Contracts usually last any time between three months and two years, which means your employment is secured during that period. As they are not accounted for as headcount, contractors are normally not affected by business restructuring, which means there is also a lower risk of being retrenched.
Finding a new job also tends to be less challenging for contract staff, because they could tap into their professional network fairly easily. In fact, most of them secure their next gig even before their contract ends, often times with more attractive employers who have been monitoring their progress and contributions.
Debbie Brannigan, a contract engineer from Portland, Oregon shared his view on Reddit, "I've been contracting for 26 years and have never been laid off. I find it to be much more secure than staying as a permanent staff somewhere and getting laid off with no idea how to find work elsewhere."
2. gain new skills and build your professional network
When you work with a new employer, you get to work on new projects which may require new competencies. For example, an interim finance director may need to use new software to analyse data and numbers. Some companies in Hong Kong also offer training to help contract workers acquire new skills or further deepen their capabilities.
Jerry McKune, a tech worker based in St. Louis said he loved the fact that he gets the opportunity to learn a variety of skills while doing contract work. “I cannot stand to do the same thing over and over and over again. There’s a lot of variety in the contract world.” Jodi Minshall, an IT contractor in the San Francisco Bay, pointed out that she’s often given access to new and different technology, “At any other company, devices would be in a locked room with a select few employees tasked with managing them, and I might be able to see them through a window if I were lucky.”
Contract work is also a good way to build your professional network. You will get to meet new people and build new relationships whenever you work with new teams and employers.
With a bigger network, you would also be able to secure your next gig much more quickly as well. Networking is a powerful way for getting new jobs, as recent research stated that 83% who emailed contacts for help with getting work, also managed to get advice on their job search.
McKune says that the network that contracting has given him is highly valuable, “The opportunity to meet people, to make additional contacts, and have your name passed on to somebody else is a huge benefit. In my view, maybe the best of all the benefits.”
3. fast-tracked career
A career in contracting may see you rise up the ranks much faster than your peers in permanent jobs.
Employees in permanent roles are typically considered for promotions once every 18 to 24 months. Some employees have even worked in the same role for up to five years with no progression opportunity in sight, which can be very frustrating.
This journey can be quite different in contracting. Every time you change an employer or gig, you can negotiate for new terms to your advantage, especially if you have niche skills that are in high demand. This is especially common in the new digital economy.
Prerna Bajaj, Manager of Contracting at Randstad Hong Kong said, “Professionals who’ve had a vast experience working on different projects with different employers are actually highly sought-after. They have the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, so with each project or fixed-term contract, they are more efficient than before. These contractors are also aware of the value that they bring to the company. If they know that their experience and skills are needed, even if it's for a stop-gap measure, the ball’s in their court during negotiation.”
For example, digital transformation project managers as well as experts in DevOps are in high demand, as companies are willing to invest in talent who can drive innovation and deliver a more positive customer experience. These contract professionals are able to command a higher premium as they have in-demand prerequisite skills needed by employers to implement short-term transformational projects.
4. higher monthly salary
As compared to their peers in permanent employment, contract workers are known to have a higher monthly base salary. This is because they typically do not have access to the full suite of employee benefits that permanent staff are entitled to, like parental leave and insurance. Contract workers who manage to meet tight deadlines may also receive a completion bonus.
Besides being able to renegotiate their pay, some contractors are also highly compensated for their niche skills, especially for roles that employers face difficulties in filling.
Contract employees are particularly well compensated in the technology industry. For example, full-stack developers can make up to $12,000, system engineers with cloud experience can get up to $15,000 and business analysts too can also command up to $15,000 every month.
5. find your career passion
A contract job is a good stepping stone to a permanent role for a career you aspire to be in. It is not uncommon for young people to try different jobs with multiple employers before they settle down in a role that they can draw job satisfaction from.
Furthermore, if you exceed expectations or meet deadlines, your good performance will put you in an advantageous position to receive a permanent offer from the company. Your exposure with multiple employers and varying job scopes can also demonstrate your agility and value, thus giving them a reason to turn your role into a permanent one.
David Shindler, an employability specialist and author of “Learning to Leap”, pointed out that a contract job gives employers a chance to see how you perform and how you fit in. “I know of people who have had jobs created for them as a result of the impact they have made while working in a temporary job.”
still not sure? speak with us.
Approximately 20% of the jobs in the market are contract roles. Instead of waiting around for a permanent offer, try applying to a contract role. The interview process for contract roles is much shorter, which buys you more time to continue your search for a permanent job while you earn a stable income in the meantime.
Bajaj adds, “When markets are turbulent or vulnerable to external factors, companies are more likely to hire professional contractors as a way to optimise cost and maintain productivity. During this period, we’ll see more opportunities for contract roles than permanent. Which is why we always encourage job seekers to be open to both contracting and permanent opportunities, as they never really know which one they would be able to secure first.”
At Randstad, we regularly keep in touch with our contract professionals whom we’ve placed in various organisations. So when it’s time for them to move on, we have another gig ready for them. Connect with us to learn more about contracting works and to explore contract jobs in Hong Kong.
note – some quotes and excerpts have been edited for length and/or clarity.
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