Friday, May 17, 2013

Contract vs Permanent Employment

In today’s economy, coming back from a major hit, many companies are struggling to make ends meet.  One of the ways that they have found to save some money is to bring on contractors in lieu of permanent employees. By doing so, they save on insurance and benefits costs, while increasing flexibility when it comes to extra help for projects. Because of this increasing trend, contracting jobs are becoming easier to find than permanent positions and those in permanent positions are being frequently recruited for contract roles. I myself have reached out to many candidates in permanent positions and I am always greeted with the same question, “Why should I leave my permanent job for a contract position?” Well, I have several great reasons why contract jobs may be BETTER than permanent ones.  

They are becoming more commonplace. I know I mentioned this previously, but it’s an important point. Looking for jobs is not an easy feat and finding one that fits your skillset and requirements narrows the search even more. Contract jobs are becoming more and more common, and for perfectly stable companies. The state government uses contractors frequently, as do national and multi-national companies. If you are open to contract opportunities, your job options expand significantly and your options are much more varied - which leads me to my next point.

You can direct your own career. With contract jobs, you have the opportunity to pick and choose which projects you’d like to work on. You can just choose positions that will challenge you to learn new skills or move your career in a new direction. Contractors usually have a wider range of skills – they aren’t stuck doing the same thing over and over again and they have more opportunities to vary their projects and therefore their skillsets. This makes them more marketable to a wider range of companies. Contract roles also allow for a “try before you buy” approach – for both parties. Employers have time to determine whether an employee is the best fit for the position. And the contractor has the ability to get the inside scoop. Some companies seem to offer a great work environment, advancement opportunities, etc., but it’s a totally different story from the inside.  It should be a good fit for both employer and employee and contracts allow for that test drive period. Also with designing your own career comes the added benefit of a larger professional network and one geared more towards your professional end goals.

You can earn more money. Because of the contractual nature of these positions, and the expertise required, often companies can offer a significantly higher pay rate. And I know that many people who become contractors have to navigate enrolling in private insurance themselves without the discounts of a group policy, but DataStaff employees enjoy a competitive benefits package that includes paid holiday, vacation, and sick leave as well as medical, dental and vision coverage. As many of our projects are long-term, we also enabled employees to participate in a matching contribution (4%) 401k plan as well. So finding a staffing agency that supports you is important. Another bonus for contract employees, especially in the IT Industry, is overtime pay. The Fair Standards Labor Act (FLSA) defines Computer Professionals as exempt employees. Since most permanent positions compensate on a salaried basis, it is not required for companies to pay them for hours worked beyond 40 hours. However, in demanding project environments, it is commonplace to work long hours. Contract employees are compensated for each hour worked.

Now I know that the length of contracts can be a little discouraging. I find that the most common lengths are 6 months and 12 months. Often, these are set that way because of purchase orders, especially on government projects. The project could be set to last a couple of years, but they have to apply for the funding in pieces. During an interview, you should talk with the hiring manager about the project and its goals – you’ll get a better idea for how long you’ll really be needed. 

- Katie Berryann, Technical Recruiter

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