What I Wish Tech Professionals Understood About Short-Term Contract Roles

By Executive coaching News
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You’ve been there before: An email featuring the subject line “new opportunity” slides into your inbox. You open it, read the description, and learn it’s with a well-respected company. You feel excited, even optimistic. However, as you move down the page, the word “contract” catches your eye. Further examination reveals the company is hiring for short-term contract roles. Your shoulders drop, eyes roll, the excitement fades. “Is a short-term contract right for me,” you think to yourself. The answer can be an astounding yes.

In this article, we share three compelling reasons why you should consider short-term contract roles (also known as fixed-term contracts or consulting engagements), especially if it’s with a reputable company and in your desired field of work. 

What are Short-Term Contract Roles?

A Short-term contract is a full-time or part-time position with a defined end date. For example, The Carrera Agency supports partners by identifying IT talent for contract roles lasting three months to twelve months long. These opportunities always support a genuine need for specific talent within the organization, such as project management, DevOps, data engineer, software engineer, to name a few. 

Additionally, contracts provide more structure and certainty than traditional freelance work, with the added flexibility of estimated completion dates. And if both parties are satisfied with the engagement, consultants can receive extensions after their initial period.

Now you can explain a short-term contract to your family and friends. Next, we will reveal three crucial reasons why contract work can be an unexpected blessing for your career — and why you shouldn’t decline an interview if the project piques your interest.

Get Your Foot in the Door at Big Companies

It can take years to land your ideal job at a large, well-respected company. But what if there was another way to get your foot in the door sooner rather than later? Cue the short-term contract.

Traditional full-time jobs follow structured hiring cycles. And each cycle permits a specific number of openings per quarter. The result is fewer recruitment channels for prospective job-seekers — and more time spent waiting for your opportunity. 

Think about what’s entailed when following the traditional path to hiring for full-time opportunities. The traditional process includes applying for open positions, observing and interacting with the company online, attending job fairs, and networking whenever possible. Although things have been done this way for decades, getting your foot in the door has never been more challenging. 

The next time a talent manager contacts you about a contract role, consider the competitive landscape and how difficult it is to land the job you want even in a booming job market. Partnering with the right talent firm can mean a shorter interview process and access to specialized roles usually guarded by immense competition. If you are still uncertain about your future as a consultant, reach out to a fellow tech professional doing project work.

A fixed-term contract offers an added benefit to consultants: you can choose projects across industries and build a diverse portfolio of proven success. On the contrary, full-time positions cite requirements such as X amount of years experience in a specific industry, making it difficult to explore new opportunities in adjacent industries.

Develop Your Resume Faster With Experience and Skills

Getting your foot in the door at a large company is one of many reasons why people choose a consulting career and, specifically, short-term contract roles. Another reason is to build a robust resume with a variety of experiences and proven skills. 

A traditional employee can work at a company for years before acquiring the same project experience as a consultant. Think about how long it takes to develop your resume with standard promotion cycles: years or even a decade in some cases. The days of relying on a ladder approach to career and resume development are fading, especially for IT professionals. 

“Technology is only as powerful as the capabilities of the people trained to use it,” said Michael Yoo, general manager of technology & developer skills at Skillsoft, while speaking about the 15 most lucrative IT certifications available today. Additionally, he cited a reason for the talent gap companies are experiencing: “more than 75% of IT leaders struggle to find the talent they need.” Upskilling measures are underway in many companies; however, project consultants can help alleviate the pressure felt from the shortage.

Short-term contracts empower consultants to continuously upskill and acquire certifications, further strengthening their resumes and portfolios. The more certifications a consultant earns, especially those recognized by industry-leading employers such as AWS, Cisco, Google Cloud, ISACA, and Microsoft, the more valuable they are to an organization today. 

How to List Short-Term Contract Roles on Your Resume

If you’re thinking, “How do I list contract work on my resume?” you aren’t alone. Developing your resume with short-term contracts doesn’t mean you can’t have a concise, one or two-page document. Instead, it’s an opportunity to showcase what’s essential: results, data, and impact.

Following the company name and location, include a short paragraph with your project responsibilities. Even use bullets to communicate achievements. Most importantly, quantify your results for every project and be precise. And don’t forget to include keywords for the technology and tools you used.

Try the Job Without a Long-Term Commitment 

You test drive a car before purchasing or signing a lease. Similarly, you date a person before committing to a relationship. We even dip our toes in the water before diving in. So why don’t we try a job before becoming a company employee? 

Fixed-term contracts or project-based work empowers consultants to experience a job before committing to longer contracts or a full-time position. Think about a time when you started a new job only to realize it’s not what you expected, leading you to leave the company early. If you’ve had this experience, you’re not alone. Exploring short-term projects can help everyone decide if a job or company is right for them.

“Is the company culture a good fit for me?” is the first question most people think about before applying to work at a company. However, without firsthand experience, we can only make decisions based on the experiences of others. You can see signs of company culture during the interview process but not the whole picture. Three to six-month projects reveal the attitudes and behaviors of team members and the company, helping you determine if you’re in the right place without the risk. 

Before you Go

Short-term contracts can open doors you didn’t know existed. New and experienced consultants alike confirm how project work re-tooled how they think about career development, including skills development and finding the right companies to work with. Whether you want to experience a company’s culture, gain vast industry experience or build your resume by demonstrating technical skills, a short-term contract role puts you in control. 

We shared three reasons why you shouldn’t immediately decline an interview for project-based work without exploring the doors it can open for you. Now it’s time to decide which door you want to open first.

*Main image by Jonas Leupe