During a job hunt, candidates are often approached by a myriad of recruiters with predominately contract opportunities. Before beginning a job search, one must to decide if contracting is a viable option.
Knowledge of the differences between contracting and full time employment is essential to making that decision. Here are some pros and cons of each to consider:
Higher Pay – Contractors are employees of staffing agencies, not of the company the assignment is with. As such, contractors are paid higher because the company does not need to cover the costs of employment like benefits or holidays. The extra pay is intended for the contractor to be able to cover those costs individually or through the staffing agency. Oftentimes, the extra pay is more than is needed to cover benefits and to make up for unpaid vacation days.
Variety of Experience – Contracting jobs are short-term, typically three months to one year in length. Because of this, contractors usually transition from assignment to assignment at multiple companies. This provides an opportunity for a much higher variety of experience to add to a resume than a full-time position typically would. A great staffing agency should have a redeployment program to help contractors line up new assignments before current assignments expire in order to minimize periods of unemployment.
Foot-in-the-Door Opportunities – Large companies often utilize contractors to fill many positions in order to save costs. These large companies, like Facebook or Google, are incredibly competitive to get into as a full-time employee. However, because so many temporary positions are constantly becoming available, there are more opportunities to be selected for a contract. With a foot in the door, contractors can work on wowing their managers and if the team’s budget makes sense, the contract could turn into a permanent position. If it doesn’t, there is still a chance the manager will help the contractor find a different position within the company. If nothing else, the contractor walks away with a much stronger network than before the assignment.
Benefits and Perks – Contractors don’t receive benefits through the companies they are assigned to. Most staffing agencies offer medical benefits to their contractors but the contractor usually carries a larger portion of the cost. Contractors also don’t get paid time off or paid holidays. Some of this is changing. In California, for example, it is now mandatory for staffing firms to provide accrued sick leave. Companies often have restrictions on the types of perks contractors are allowed access to and as such, contractors sometimes miss out on exciting events like concerts or holiday parties unless specifically invited by a permanent employee.
Benefits and Perks Jackpot! – Full time positions usually offer all the bells and whistles: medical insurance, sick leave, paid holidays, paid vacation and retirement plans. Additionally, larger companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, provide perks to full time employees that often sound like a dreamland. Some of these include gyms, food, laundry, house cleaning, daycare, pet insurance, shuttles, remote work and fully paid maternity/paternity leave. In some cases, over-the-top exclusive parties and concerts are included as well.
Camaraderie – Because full time positions are essentially permanent, full time employees experience a much higher level of camaraderie with colleagues than contractors. Unfortunately for contractors, they are sometimes viewed as outsiders. Full time employees might be hesitant to build relationships with contract workers who could be gone in a few months. Additionally, full time employees experience bonding moments together like holiday parties that contractors often miss out on.
Lower Pay – The cost of full time employment to the employer is much higher than the cost of a contractor. As such, full time employees receive less pay in exchange for the benefits they receive. Job seekers interviewing for permanent positions should take time to research salaries in order to negotiate the highest rate possible.
Tougher Competition – There is a low supply and high demand for full time positions at top companies. The security and benefits of being a full time employee are so appealing that it makes the candidate competition incredibly tough to champion through. In the current market, these openings will always be offered to the best of the best candidates with the most relevant experience. If a job hunter is seeking a career or industry change, contracting may provide easier attained opportunities to assist in building relevant experience.
Many believe that full time employment carries more job security than contracting. On the surface this appears true since a contractor’s assignment can be terminated at any time, but a full-time employee is also subject to termination at any time under At-Will Employment. According to U.S. Labor Law, an employee can be terminated for any reason, including no reason and without warning. Additionally, a contractor unsure if they will have an assignment lined up is as insecure about the job market as a full-time employee looking for new opportunities.
Armed with the knowledge of the differences between contracting and full time employment, candidates can weigh the pros and cons to decide which path is right for their particular lifestyle and career goals. Some may choose to pursue one or the other; others may choose to pursue both. Regardless of the path chosen, a more important choice has been made: to never stop developing ones dream career.