Gbenga Rufai, Oct 2014
Hiring someone on contract basis has always existed in one form or the other over the years. It is cost effective for the organization and has helped many eke out a living. At a point in my career, I had to take up a job as a contract staff. While the conditions and process might be different in other climes, in Nigeria, especially in some industries, it has become a tool for oppression and taking undue advantage of brilliant minds that make up the saturated labour market.
Looking back from my experience, that of others who have shared their stories with me and research into the field, I have decided to write this 2-part piece. While I might not be able to address the organization (which might be the focus for another time) at least, these tips might be useful for those currently having a hard time in this regard. Here are 10 things you must always have at the back of your mind.
1. You are on a learning curve
Getting a job on full time basis can sometimes be pretty challenging especially when you have limited work experience. A job as a contract staff can however be a great opportunity to garner experience that would land you the ‘big break’. Also, one can learn how to run or not to run your own business. Learn from senior colleagues at work; ask questions, read up articles and journals related to your field. You never can tell when a conversion test would come knocking. Success comes when opportunity meets with preparation. Never forget, you are at a stage where you should work not to only ‘earn’ but to most importantly to ‘learn’.
2. Have a transition plan at the entry.
We currently live in a very volatile environment where socio-political and economic factors could convert a fully employed individual to a job seeker in an instant. While we should be optimistic of keeping our jobs, it’s good you start making plans for a voluntary exit or transition to a better role. This voluntary exit plan could be to a better job, to start off a business idea, to return to further your education in order to become attractive to employers and competitive. Having this kind of mindset would guide your spending pattern, help you save up for the rainy days, ignite your mind to think of ideas and maximize present opportunities at your disposal.
3. Develop Competencies On The Job
I am of the firm belief that there is no better place to hone your skills than on the job. Theoretical knowledge is brought alive by practice. This is not the time to get slothful, work hard! As a contract staff it would not be strange to have your superiors come to drop their jobs at your desk for you to do. This can be sometimes annoying especially when you have so much to ‘chew’ already. Adjust your mindset and see it as an opportunity to learn how to do what your boss does. There is no faster way at getting promoted than that. You would be the better for it at the end. You would even be shocked at the values that would rub off on you and could later be converted to money spinners. I remember that some of the professional competencies I enjoy today were learnt as a contract hire.
4. You are expendable
Remember the block buster movie, THE EXPENDABLES? Well, as much as I really hate to say it, the simple truth is, that is what you are with that organization. When right sizing has to be done, you most likely (though not in all cases) make the ‘merit list’ (sarcasm not intended). Your blunders on the job might not be treated with the same gloves as a permanent employee; it could actually lead to your summary dismissal. Work smart, work hard and bear it in mind that you could be asked to leave even before the maturity of your contract.
Once you have this in mind, you won’t be complacent. I call it hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
5. You Are In Transit
It can be pretty dangerous and smacks of complacency and short sightedness to relax and begin to ‘settle down’ on your new job as a contract staff. Don’t get it twisted, you were hired on ‘contract’ and if you look closely at your letter of offer, you would probably see the duration. I have met a number of contract staff who relax, start taking loans from their employers as if they have gotten to their promised land. See the job as a transit camp. That would help you to leverage on opportunities to add value to yourself and your employer.
Don’t forget that great people never complain or feel pity about their current conditions. Rather, they look at the bright side and see themselves as evolving. Never forget, Men may know you or even try to define you based on your circumstance but God defines you based on your purpose. Readjust your mindset and never forget that your current experiences are needed for your final destination.