If you thought the interview gauntlet was tough — try the six-month job interview. To be fair: You should. You might think I’m a little crazy, but if you have a contract job, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Sure, there is the work, but that contract job is one long, long, long interview.
1. You Learn the Culture of the Company
Culture represents the rules you must use to get things done in a company. Does the company give you the responsibility — and authority — to decide? Or do you have to get consensus from 5,000 people? Some companies will take a day to decide and improvise from the decision. Others will take three months and make 20 different plans to make the employee celebration party self-funding. Seriously.
Would you have wanted to commit to a company like one or the other? Contract work informs you of how the culture works.
2. You Build Internal Support for Your Work
What’s the absolute, best way to learn about new jobs? Be on the inside and find out about them before they happen. How can you do that? Be a contractor inside the company! You’ll learn about jobs that become open, jobs that will become open — and people will come and ask you if you’d like to apply for the position.
Even better? Your current work is seen by managers at different levels, you’ll have already interacted with higher levels, and if you have done a good job those managers will advocate for you to the hiring manager.
And did I mention you can apply for the jobs you want? And learn about the work before you apply?
Yeah, those six-month interviews are tough.
3. You Learn How Effective Management is in the Company
Once inside the company, you watch the management dynamics at work. Does company management constantly talk Corporate Speak and never really do anything? Start project after project that consistently fails?
Or does management say they will do something, plan to do it, execute it against the plan and let people make it happen? Which company management would you love to work for?
You can tell if you are inside the company.
Look, if you’ve been looking for a job but have been reluctant to take on contract work, I’d reconsider. Taking a contract job requires you to do the work — that’s a given for any job. But if you think it’s temporary — and scared of that — reconsider that point of view. You can learn about the company culture like you never could from interviews alone. You can build a bigger support network that just happens to be the very one you need to get a permanent job. Bonus: You get to learn if the company management has a clue about how to run the company.
Oh! And earn income, practice job skills, and learn new ones while you’re at it. Job shopping never looked so good.