What's your Problem?

Should I demand a permanent contract?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I have been in my current position for nine months. I was interviewed for a senior role, but since I didn't have enough experience in the domain they wanted, I was recruited to the level just below.

This was a contractual role but I was promised that I would become permanent once I proved myself. Unfortunately, I was put on a difficult first project with a very demanding client and there were lots of things to learn and it didn't go well. Since then, I've been on a rolling contract. Now they are offering me another six-month contract - I have performed very well in my latest project and proved myself. I've been actively looking for other work, but nothing has come up as yet. I am not sure if I should take the next six-month contract or be firm on a full-year contract - or just refuse to take up the offer.

A: You were given a difficult first project, confronted with a very demanding client and had a lot of things to learn: it didn't go well. And yet you survived.

So my first piece of advice is: don't waste this experience. For most people, most stints in most jobs involve a sticky patch somewhere along the line. Somewhat perversely, if you come out of it well enough, your position is strengthened. You now know the job better, and your employer now knows you better. It has a cementing effect.

That your sticky patch came right at the beginning was bad luck. Because it was your first assignment, nobody could know whether it was just one of those things or a worrying indication of your likely future performance level. So for your employer, the rolling contract must have seemed a prudent arrangement.

Since then, you've clearly satisfied your managers but not yet fully convinced them that you're permanent-staff material. On the essential assumption that you like this job and would be delighted to be invited to stay on, now's not the time to negotiate for a full-year contract or to pull out altogether. You have just another six months' investment to make; and if all goes as well as it should, you'll finally be where you wanted to be, and with an employer entirely happy that you'll be a long-term asset.

But if you're genuinely troubled by the nature of this job - and not just about how the company currently rates you - continue to look around. Don't, however, decide to jump until you've got a good, firm landing place safely lined up. And by that time you could be happily settled where you are, with doubts on all sides dispelled.

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