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Tips for turning a temporary job into a long-term career

Colleagues look over a report together

By Alice Rush

Many people find themselves working a side hustle at some point in their adult lives. Whether it’s a part-time job to supplement a full-time income or a temporary position to fill an employment gap, each employment opportunity has the potential to provide experience and add to your value.

The security of a permanent position and the benefits that go with it — healthcare options, retirement, access to employee wellness resources — have taken on new importance in the last year. The pandemic has left many employees in limbo. Some are furloughed. Others are working reduced hours or have been laid off altogether. If you are currently working in a temporary position, take the opportunity to approach your circumstances strategically to potentially secure full-time employment at the conclusion of the temporary timeline.This can be accomplished through a three-point strategy that sees being "the new person" as a benefit. You can hone your skills in identifying issues and potential solutions, effectively communicate your value as a full-time prospect and develop a network.

1- Consider yourself a consultant

Employees brought in on a temporary basis have the opportunity to see products, processes and procedures with a fresh set of eyes, much the same as consultants do when they’re hired to help businesses make improvements.If you clearly see pain points and ways to improve, consider creating a written plan that lines out the obstacles and your ideas for ways to address them. Include the positives as well to show you understand the difference between what hits the mark and what doesn’t.Employers like to be presented with solutions, especially if they’re already aware of the challenges and are looking for potential solutions. Start by exchanging ideas with co-workers and your immediate supervisor.Consider sensitivities that may exist. If the issues you’re highlighting are obvious, why aren’t the seasoned employees already offering suggestions? They may be willing to share these reasons with you.Also, always follow a chain of command when it comes to communication. Don’t jump straight to trying to schedule a meeting with the CEO.

While employers like proactive problem-solvers, it is important to show them that you know and understand their processes and culture and that you respect the authority of the leadership. If you disregard this consideration, your feedback may not be well received.

2- Informed discussions can show your value

It’s important to approach conversations with the key stakeholders in the company as just that — conversations. Your aim is to have a two-sided discussion and let your counterpart know that you’re a listener as well as a problem-solver. Doing this will show your commitment to embracing the business’s goals while also driving necessary change. This can help you stand out.

Begin your discussions by thanking them for the opportunity to talk with you, then engage in purposeful questioning to lead into your ideas. Here are a few questions that can spark a dialogue:

What are the business’s most pressing goals and what obstacles may be hindering success?

If you could add a new skill set to the employees in your department/business, what would that be? What makes that skill set so important?

What projects do you want to tackle but don’t have time due to more pressing obligations?

What would your customers say are areas within the business that need improvement?

The answers to these questions can help you determine how to pitch your plan to your employer and also help you showcase the way your skills and goals align with the organization’s.

3- Develop connections, then maintain them

As your temporary position draws toward a conclusion, be sure your co-workers and superiors know that you desire full-time employment. There’s value for employers in maintaining reliable employees who are already trained rather than replacing them with someone fresh, even if the employment opportunity is not immediate.

If you end up parting ways, do so with gratitude for the opportunity and make a point to continue professional communication with your former co-workers. Ask if they’ll serve as references for upcoming job searches or to keep you posted if they hear of openings.

Finally, take what you’ve learned from your temporary experience and your conversations to help determine how to proceed toward your end goal. Education may be worth considering at this point to help yourself stand out.

For instance, if your boss mentioned that an industry-aligned certificate is desirable, you might pursue upskill opportunities. Or maybe there’s a single course that might provide you with more information on a subject that applies to the job.

These are ways you can show an ongoing commitment to the pursuit of a full-time role and also increase your value as an employee within a field or industry.

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