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Temporary, Contract & Interim roles - are they worth your time?

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What springs to mind when you look at jobs with ‘contract assignment’ or ‘Interim /Project role’? You might imagine it’s for recent graduates finding their feet or something to tide you over until you can secure a ‘real’ job? In reality, temp and contract work has come a long way and is no longer a necessity of the recession.

A temporary job or contract role may bridge a gap between fundamental career moves or help transition you from one industry or role to another, or it could be just one of many. The way interim work is now viewed by both workers and employers has changed dramatically and for the better.

The New Normal

These roles used to be ad-hoc ‘needs-based’ jobs that were filled because there was no other option – neither for employer nor employee. Now, however, more and more organisations plan projects around skilled interim appointments, bringing in skills that aren’t required long-term but are vital to successful completion of the project. While initially this change was driven out of necessity, for many this has become the new norm.
Nowadays it is a given that most Gen Y’ers will have a minimum of 10-15 job moves in their lifetime. Very career driven individuals will start looking to pastures new within 18 months if they feel opportunities are not in reach in their respective roles. Contract or interim roles of that length may eventually drop the ‘Temporary’ qualifier and just become ‘jobs’.

Projects, Assignments and Growth

Interim work focuses predominantly on short-to-medium term projects that last between 6-23 months. Recruitment agencies are searching on behalf of their clients for employees who can fill positions quickly and at a minimum disruption to the business. We are typically looking for people who are flexible – both in time and work practice, learn on their feet and enjoy the challenge of one-off projects with clear goals.

These goals can be extremely varied but common work assignments would require you to:

  • Replace a permanent employee who is being seconded/maternity leave cover etc

  • Handle a temporary increase in work due to a project/new business

  • Deal with exceptional work due to growth etc

The one factor each of these roles will have in common is speed. You are coming in for a short period to start fast, do the best job you can and finish on-time. Slow starters need not apply.

What do you gain?

Taking on one, or many, temporary roles will mean a change in your career. It should mean a better work-life balance and a lucrative hourly/daily rate, but it will also help you to develop as a potential hire. You learn new skills quickly, get a variety of experience with different types of employers, and often these initially short-term assignments become auditions for permanent roles.

Contract, interim, and temporary roles are no longer an unfortunate necessity or a last resort – they’re typically exciting opportunities that will become more and more common. So the next time a recruiter suggests a contract role, don’t sputter into your Weetabix; instead focus on what you might gain – in most cases, it’ll be worth the calculated risk.

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This blog post was originally published in 2016 and was updated and republished in August 2017.