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How to use part time and temp jobs to build your career
Career paths are changing. It used to be that most people looked for that One Job, the one where they would stay for a number of years, the company where they would work their way up the career ladder and retire after a respectable amount of time.
While this is still a reality for some people, for many, it’s becoming increasingly unrealistic. In fact, for some, the opposite is true - professionals are building a career out of short term stints at companies, part time positions and project-based tenures. This is due to factors such as the current economic climate, the nature and evolution of many roles and industries, and a general change in the perception of what a successful career should look like.
So if the former One Job scenario seems unrealistic for you, this is an excellent time to take advantage of the latter - the gig economy. The gig economy is made up of contracting and other short term roles that allow you to gain experience, knowledge and a salary in a way that works best for your circumstances. Here are just a few scenarios in which part time and temporary jobs can not only be a good thing, but can help advance your career.
You’re entering the job market in a recession.
With an economic recession, the reality is that many companies slow down or stop hiring altogether. The number of open jobs in the market during a recession is lower as companies are less willing to commit to or unable to secure a budget for permanent headcount. As a result, companies usually hire short term contractors or specialists on a project basis.
As a job seeker, this can work to your advantage if full time roles simply aren’t out there at the moment you’re looking for one. Seek out projects that are interesting, valuable learning opportunities or at reputable companies, and you will be able to turn a series of contract or part time jobs into a long period of experience that will be applicable to your future career goals. Additionally, a short term contract with any company can always turn into a long-term career opportunity under the right circumstances.
You are getting started in your career.
You need experience to get hired, but to get experience you need to get hired - does that sound familiar? For entry-level professionals, it can be increasingly hard to get the required experience that you need in order to be considered for key roles. This is when contract, short term or part time jobs can be seriously useful. Use these short term roles to gather relevant experience, and once you’ve built up a good body of work, you may find that full-time positions become an option for you in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before.
You have become a specialist in your field.
On the other hand, any professional who has built a long and successful career has become a specialist - This can be an excellent time to turn to contracting and project work, as you can command a high fee for specialised, niche knowledge that not many people have. Additionally, after working many years in a full time role, the flexibility of short term work may be undeniably appealing.
You have demanding personal responsibilities.
Whether you are a parent of young kids, a primary caregiver for another family member, or have any other personal responsibilities that make it hard for you to commit to a long-term, full-time job, then part time or contract work is a viable solution. Taking on projects on a short-term basis gives you control over when and how you work and gives you the flexibility to take a break when needed, without sacrificing quality or overall career direction.
You are in an industry that values diverse experience.
There are many industries and roles in which having a diverse background and a lot of experience in varying situations is a big advantage. This means you are able to think on your feet, apply critical thinking to different problems and issues that come up and can deal with unexpected events using previous experience and learnings.
How to turn short term gigs into long-term experience
More and more, people of all levels of experience are turning contracting into long-term, healthy, viable careers. When first starting out, it may seem that each gig is a separate thing, unconnected to the next.
However, after taking a few short-term projects on, you will begin to find similar threads throughout - threads that you can weave together to create a full, compelling career story. These threads are things like transferable skills, soft skills, and processes that you can apply in any situation. After spending some time in the gig economy, you may find that you want to jump into a full time role, in which case, you’ll be well-prepared by your various experiences. On the other hand, you may realise that short-term, contract work is a fulfilling career option.