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Breaking the Stigma of Contract Roles

Oftentimes when people are looking for work, they are hesitant to work with a staffing agency or to take on contract work. But sometimes that hesitancy is based on misconceptions. Many people think that contract workers are exploited. That they don’t have access to benefits. Or that it’s not as good as getting hired directly. Would it surprise you to learn that none of these things are true?

If you’re looking for work in a highly skilled, competitive field like engineering, manufacturing or technology, chances are many of the open roles you come across will be listed as contract positions. Instead of automatically scrolling past in search of direct hire work, here are some reasons to consider contract jobs as a viable option.

How does being a contractor work?

Before getting into the advantages of contract work and dispelling some myths, you should understand how being a contractor works. When you take on contract work, you are actually being hired by an agency that will place you within a particular company for a set amount of time. Contracts are usually six months or a year. You’ll typically be paid by the hour as a W-2 employee.

At the end of the contract, you will either move on, extend into a new contract, or the company may show interest in hiring you directly.

This is not to be confused with being an independent contractor or freelancer. That’s when you are in business for yourself and someone hires you to do a job or project rather than bring you on as an employee. In those cases, you’ll get a 1099 and be responsible for handling taxes on your own.

Now that you have a sense of what being a contractor means, here are some reasons why this type of work might be a good fit for you.

It’s a foot in the door

A lot of employers that do direct hiring may be looking for candidates that have several years of experience or a laundry list of must-have skills. With contract positions, you’ll notice that many of those postings are far more flexible, looking for only a year or two of experience. They may also be offering training on the job. That’s why contract positions tend to be a great way for recent graduates or newcomers to an industry to get their foot in the door at a large company.

It puts you on a pathway to a salaried position

Unlike temporary work which has an end date because an employee will be returning or a project is ending, contract work is more like a trial run. Companies are aiming to find the right people to eventually keep on long-term, but don’t necessarily want to make that investment up front until they’ve determined them to be a good fit. In fact, it’s quite common for contract workers to be hired directly at the end of their contracts.

You’ll start off with a higher rate

Because employers don’t provide the same suite of benefits to contract workers as they do their salaried employees, they are able to offer more competitive wages. So for example, if someone is making $50 per hour (or $100,000 per year) as a contract worker, had they been hired as a direct employee first, they might only make $80,000 plus benefits. But if they convert from the contract to a direct hire, the salary negotiations will begin at a higher number.

You still get health insurance

Yes, it is true that the company paying for your contract does not provide you with benefits – but that doesn’t mean you won’t have any. Since you are actually employed by the consulting agency, you can still get benefits like health insurance and a 401(k) through them.

You can test the waters

For competitive jobs, you might find that there aren’t that many job postings available, and for the ones you apply to, it could take months to hear back. In the meantime, contract jobs are more likely to be in abundance. Essentially, you could be working as a contractor learning new skills and making connections while your competition sits and waits for call backs. What’s more, a short-term opportunity gives you the chance to discover things that you like – or don’t like – about your industry, with less commitment.

You’ll establish a relationship with a consulting firm

Ultimately, you may work a contract job and find that it isn’t a good fit for you. Or maybe that employer does not decide to hire you for whatever reason. The good news is the consulting firm will work to either get your contract extended or find you a new opportunity right away. If there is interest in bringing you on as a direct hire, the agency will also help you renegotiate the pay rate, too.

Contract positions are very popular in certain skilled industries and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Especially if you are in the early part of your career, don’t overlook these roles because of preconceived notions. Work with a reputable agency to find out more about how contract positions work, and why they could be the right move for you.


by Scott Muttilainen, National Recruiter

Image credit: Canva