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Sunday, August 23, 2009

contracting vs. full-time job

A reader writes:

About 9 months ago I was let go from a great full-time contracting position I held for three years with a large corporation. At the time, the company was laying off hundreds of employees and contractors like myself were the first to go, and I was sad to leave the work and the people there behind. After a couple of months of job-searching I landed a new job at a much smaller company and have been reasonably happy at this new position, minus the longer commute and less than half the pay I was making before as a contractor.

Now my new company is transitioning to a smaller location and is struggling financially, and I've been led to believe through several conversations with my boss that my job could be in peril. I've been searching for openings at several companies through my network contacts and have been notified of a position that is opening up with my old company (which seems to have stabdoing relatively the same work I was doing as a contractor. The manager for this position called to ask if I was interested to contract for them to start, although they would be opening up a search to fill it permanently both internally and externally. I responded that I was interested in both the contract and permanent position and would give my final answer to my availabilty within a few days.

So, after a year of being in a precarious position career-wise, I'm still uncertain; do I take the contracting position that could either lead to a permanent spot, or leave me with a month or two of work and out job-hunting again after they hire someone other than me?

P.S. Your site was a life-saver during the months I was job searching. There were so many helpful tips that provided me with guidance from cover-letter writing to how to handle phone interviews -- I learned a lot. Thanks for your help!

People who write nice things get their questions answered faster. Usually. I'm currently really behind on my mail, even among people who have said nice things (sorry to those people!). There are currently 161 emails in my in-box, so I may need to go on a posting frenzy soon.

My immediate thought is that you need more information from both companies.

Your old company: Tell them you're extremely interested but concerned about job security since they previously laid you off. Ask what they can tell you that can help you comfortably accept their offer. Ask if they're willing to commit to employing you for a specific period of time (can't hurt to ask; guilt from laying you off might lead them to say yes, and sometimes asking for things results in you getting them). See how you feel about what they say.

Your new company: Ask your boss candidly what your prospects are for still being there in a year. Since he may not be straightforward with you, let your knowledge of his past candor (or lack thereof) guide you as you evaluate his answer. You might even tell him that your old company approached you about contracting again, that you don't want to leave your current job, but that you figured you'd be crazy not to check in with him, given what's going on with the economy and this company. If he knows lay-offs are coming, this may prompt him to hint you should take the other job. Pay attention to hints and hesitation.

I think you'll be able to make a decision once you have both these conversations. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

One of the things that bugs me about contractors is that they get hooked on the "great pay" that they make. But along with that great pay comes uncertainty -- as everyone knows, contractors are the first to go when the axe falls.