Posted by David Jones on 19 June 2014
Temporary work can be seen as a foot in the door to a new career, but not every role has the potential to go permanent. So it’s important to go into any new workplace with realistic expectations. The possibility is there, and the right approach can increase your chances of success.
Try before you buy
Many employers use temporary contracts as a way of trialling workers before offering permanent employment. It allows them to assess the candidate’s technical skills, and gives an insight into the team dynamics and cultural fit.
Alternatively, a temporary contract puts the onus on the employee to prove themselves, with far less risk and fewer HR headaches for the employer. So it’s up to you to seize the opportunity and demonstrate how you’re truly deserving of consideration, should a permanent role be available.
Many job seekers struggle to understand why an employer rejects their application or fails to offer them the permanent position. “I can do the work,” is a common criticism, but it misses what the employer is really looking for.
Merely performing the duties to an acceptable standard is not enough to impress an employer. If your output or commitment is no more or less impressive than every other temporary hire that passes through the workplace, there is no compelling reason for the employer to single you out for a permanent post.
To be noticed, you need to add value. You need to show you’re capable of going beyond the minimum requirement. You need to be consistently reliable, never late, always meeting or exceeding targets, and with fewer than average sick days (none is best).
Plus, your experience and work history should be backed up with strong references – both from your temporary agency and previous employers. Don’t underestimate the power of positive references from previous employers who have first-hand knowledge of your work performance and reliability.
So even if a temporary role has no chance of becoming permanent, still use it as an opportunity to prove yourself and cultivate a strong reference to help you in your next role. That said, exceptional skills and a strong work ethic aren’t always enough either.
An interviewer can usually ascertain an applicant’s skill level in an interview, but it is sometimes only a very experienced interviewer who can delve into interpersonal traits that assess cultural fit within an organisation. It is much harder to evaluate personality and how well (or otherwise) they may integrate into the workplace culture.
This is where the situation is mutually beneficial for both the candidate and employer. The candidate can use this opportunity to present themselves as the best person for a permanent role, as well as showcasing their interpersonal skills. They can also make a truly informed decision as to whether they would be interested in a permanent role, if it becomes an option.
A good worker also needs the social skills and personality that can sustain or enhance a positive workplace environment. An individual top performer can be a drag on productivity if there are personality clashes or attitude problems requiring attention.
A good attitude, and an ability to interact and work well with everyone else in the business, can give you a strong advantage over a similarly skilled worker who simply clocks in and out and makes no effort to become part of the team.
Never underestimate the persuasive power of simply being likeable. Let things evolve naturally; if you try too hard to be friendly or become overly familiar too soon, others may see you as distracting or become uncomfortable around you.
Don’t be disappointed if your hard work fails to change the end date on your contract. Pure temporary roles still offer the opportunity for powerful references. It’s still a validation of your abilities.
Also, employers can be put off by constant talk of a permanent role, so don’t be single-minded in your efforts. If the opportunity arises, they will approach you. But if an employer believes your only motivation for working hard is to land a permanent role, they may decide you’re more likely to slack off once you achieve the goal. Instead, prove that you are just as dedicated to your temporary role as you would be to a permanent position.
There are no shortcuts and no tricks. As always, hard work, a positive attitude and a little patience are the best ways to land a permanent job.