What Permanent Employees Can Learn from Contract Staff

Stable “permanent” employment has long been the ultimate goal for employees across industries. The promise of security, insurance benefits, a pension, vacation days and sick time had been an enticing draw for anyone seeking gainful employment and hoping to raise a family, build a nest egg or simply pursue individual happiness. For as long as anyone can remember, a traditional, full-time, permanent job was a worker’s golden ticket.

But times change. Today, a staff position is only as “permanent” as an employee’s next paycheck, and the traditional perks of full-time employment have gradually been compromised – or, in some cases, eliminated altogether. Meanwhile, more companies are hiring contingent labor for skilled (and often lucrative) work, creating opportunities for more professionals to earn higher wages and build more schedule flexibility into an individual lifestyle. Permanent employees are no longer viewed as having unlocked the key to professional success. In fact, they would do well to pick up a trick or three from their brethren on the other side.                 

Here’s what permanent employees can learn from independent contractors and other temporary employees:

Reflect and Own Your Experience

Because terms of their employment tend to be finite and relatively short, independent contractors typically update their resumes more often than their permanent counterparts do. But the reality is, every worker should regularly take time out to make sure all their employer-facing materials are current.

Not only are you more likely to capture the nuances of your work contributions and avoid forgetting important details by frequently updating your full dossier, you’ll never be caught scrambling to pull everything together at a moment’s notice. You never know when your dream job will suddenly become available – or when your current role may be zeroed out.

In addition to resumes, employees should routinely update all job employment and profile platforms (LinkedIn, for example), portfolios and similar summaries of work. Updating employers, titles and dates should be the bare minimum. Be sure to include new projects, duties and accomplishments that draw attention in a quick eyeball scan or keyword search – any one of them could be a foot in the door to a new opportunity, or simply demonstrate specialized or soft skills that give you a leg up over the competition.

Build Your Network While You Work

“It’s who you know” remains a key tenet of job seekers and career climbers. Mentors, former bosses, ex-colleagues and even past reports make excellent resources for contractors seeking their next gigs, and it should be no different for permanent employees.

Keeping in touch ensures that opportunities don’t slip through the cracks and throws grist into the social mill that makes networking something more than just an icky, wholly transactional affair. Check-in with your people from time to time. Let them know how you’re doing and when you’re looking. Be sure to ask how you might help them, too. If you help a former coworker land a gig, guess who’s going to flag you when a great job pops on their radar? At the very least, when an employer follows up on your references, you’ll want to be certain the people on the other end of the phone are primed to go to bat for you rather than struggling to recall your name.

Be Open to Possibilities and Opportunities to Grow

Even workers who don’t consider themselves go-getters or corporate climbers are stuck with a reality that needs facing: employment is a zero-sum game, and those who aren’t moving forward are falling behind.

And this doesn’t only hold true for temporary employees. It’s true that contractors need to constantly reinvent themselves and take aim at new skills and certifications to open the pool of opportunities as wide as possible. But as quickly as technology and business move today, even permanent employees run the risk of falling behind the curve or becoming obsolete in a position they may have been hired into not all that long ago.

Career development opportunities, formal or otherwise, should be consistently sought out and pursued. Avoid settling in your comfort zone or becoming too one-dimensional. The goal for every working professional today should be to grow your skill set and become more nimble, allowing you to perform more tasks and onboard faster – all of which will attract more employers and give you the tools to wow them once you’re hired.

Want more tips on how to optimism your professional profile? Check out the PeopleCaddie blog.

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