Employment Trends

10 Tips for Turning Your Contract Job into a Permanent One

Written by Kate Lopaze

Contract, temp, and freelance work have all become more popular in the past few years, as people look for creative ways to build their careers, and companies seek ways to reshape their workforce. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute jobs survey, about 58% of employers expect to hire more part-time, temporary or contract workers in the near future. Contract and temp jobs can be a way to develop talent before investing in it fully.

But what if you’re one of these hourly workers, and want something more permanent? If you’re working as a contractor but are looking to convert that into your stable, full-time gig, we have 10 strategies for you to use to start framing yourself as the ideal permanent employee.

1. Be clear about what you want.

Your boss isn’t psychic. If you were hired as a temp or a contract employee, he or she might not realize you’re interested in putting a ring on it and joining the team full-time. When you come on board, make sure your boss knows how happy you are to be working here, and that you’d be open to making this a longer-term—but be cool about it.

Instead of harping on your availability for a permanent position, or a reminder that you want to extend this, make it more about the job. I’m excited to be here, and would be interested in any full-time opportunities with your team. You can also bring it up with your boss as you get closer to the end of your contracted time: Now that we have just a couple of weeks left, I just wanted to check in with you, and let you know that I’m interested in continuing my work with this team.

2. Make yourself indispensable.

Easier said than done, right? If we all knew the secret of becoming necessary employees, everyone would have the totally stable job of his or her dreams. What you can do is make sure you’re going above and beyond. For example, if you’re working on a report due by end-of-day, get it in your boss’s hands by 2 p.m., with extra information.

Think about process, and how things are done. If you see ways or processes to do your job more efficiently, talk them over with your boss. Show them that you’re on the lookout for ways to take on more responsibility, or improve your work. Make the company envision you as someone who won’t just take a to-do list, but build upon it and find ways to be useful beyond the immediate job description. That suggests that you have growth potential.

3. Make a connection with your manager.

If your boss could barely pick you out of a lineup, or keeps calling you “Jim” (and your name is Jamie), that doesn’t bode well for your long-term chances at this company. Make sure you’re communicating clearly with your boss, setting regular check-ins,` or sending daily email updates to show how you’re making progress on the task you were brought in to do.

4. Work diligently.

Now is not the time to coast, if you want to be brought on permanently. Your skills and know-how are on the line here. You want them to see an employee who’s always engaged and hard at work.

Even when you’re not working so hard after all (there’s a lull in your project, or you’re taking a quick mental break after working on something for a few hours), at least put up the illusion that you’re busy. That means not openly checking your Facebook or fantasy football scores. It also means being at your desk if you’re expected to be at your desk. If you can discreetly do those things, then okay—but don’t get caught by your boss looking up that Amazon purchase when she thinks you’re working on those reports.

5. Be responsive.

If you get an email, respond right away (even if it’s just a quick note to say you’re working on whatever the request is). Thanks, Jodie! I’m taking a look at this now, and should have an update for you shortly. It lets the sender know you’re already putting thought and effort into the task, even if you don’t have an answer right away. It also shows that you’re a good team member, hint hint.

6. Be available.

Those two hours of overtime may seem annoying now, but putting in that extra time could give you an extra bump in your boss’s eyes. It demonstrates your commitment to the job, even one that’s temporary in nature. That’s an immensely valuable quality to a future employer. You don’t have to be on call around the clock (that’s a bit too eager), but if you’re clear that you are willing to put in the time and effort to get the job done, people will notice.

7. Don’t get cocky.

It can be easy to get complacent in your job, even if it’s temporary, when you’re the one handling the day-to-day tasks of the position. Don’t forget that unless and until there’s a job offer made, the company is not obligated to keep you on beyond your current contract. If you act like you already have the job, that can be a turn-off for the hiring manager.

You also don’t want to risk sounding like a know-it-all, and alienating people with whom you’d be working. You may well be killing it in your contracted job, but that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically get the opportunity to stay. Make sure you’re always mindful that this is a contract position, and while you may be able to leverage it into a longer term role, that is far from a guarantee at this point.

8. Make friends.

Ingratiating yourself with your coworkers is a key strategic move to make, if you want to make the jump to full-time team member. If there’s a full-time opportunity and your name is on the shortlist for the permanent position, you’re going to want support. One of your colleagues could be the one to put in a good word for you, or say to your boss, “You know, I really like Jamie. He knows his stuff, and fits in really well here.” What you don’t want anyone to say: a) “Who was that, again?” or b) “I never really talked to him. He just sat at his desk, head down all the time.” Companies are looking for people who will fit well with the rest of their team, so it’s smart to get to know the people around, you even if it’s small talk late on a Friday or as you both wait for the coffee machine.

And even if you don’t manage to extend this particular contract job into a permanent role, you still get to add people to your professional network. You never know when another opportunity (maybe Suzy knows someone at a similar company who’s hiring) will come up through your network.

9. Do your homework.

Make sure you learn what you can about the company. When I was in grad school, I worked as an administrative temp in a variety of different places. One of them was a financial services company, which was totally outside of my wheelhouse. I didn’t come away from the experience with a professional-level understanding of how a hedge fund works, but I got a sense of how a company like that was structured, and what the needs were. Once you know what the needs are, you can start sharpening (or showing off) the skills that are valuable to that particular industry or company. Become familiar with the company’s mission statement, and think about how it applies to the job you’re doing now.

10. Think of it like a REALLY long job interview.

If all else fails, or you have trouble keeping your focus, remember that this is basically an extended job interview. Not all contract positions will turn into full-time gigs (especially as companies look for creative ways to get work done with ever-smaller budgets), but you have nothing to lose by treating this as the one that might make the conversion. Your work is a living, breathing case for why it’s in the company’s best interest to keep you on.

Being a contractor has challenges, but also offers the freedom to try different things until you find the path that’s right for you. When you’ve found that path, don’t just put your fate into someone else’s hands—take control, and start turning yourself into the employee they won’t be able to survive without.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.