Dear Matt: I’m a recent college graduate who was offered a three-month contract role with a large corporation. I want to accept the job but I’m worried a full-time offer might come up. Could I leave before my contract is over? What are the consequences? Do I take the job?
Matt says: Take the job. Get the experience, develop your skills, build contacts and references and learn as much as you can about the real world in those three months.
You can still search for jobs, but take this as seriously as you would any permanent full-time position. The benefits of doing so are far greater than the possibility of landing a full-time job while under contract. Also, this opportunity could turn into a full-time role with that same company; your job search could be over and you don’t even know it.
But if you insist on considering other employment during this time, or perhaps want to leave for another job, be prepared for the consequences.
“Read the terms of the contract carefully,” says Jennifer Anderson, a corporate recruiter with Aerotek (aerotekcareers.com), who helps match entry-level talent with Aerotek’s internal openings. “For example, some companies have a strict policy on employees leaving their organization to go work for a competitor.”
But more than the possible legal considerations, you want to avoid burning bridges in your first job; this could haunt you for a long time. Recruiters are a tight-knit group and talk about these types of scenarios. Plus, the person who was your boss or hired you for this contract role could one day be a manager or leader at another company you may want to work for.
“Put yourself in the employer’s shoes,” says Anderson. “If you hired someone with the intent for them to work for you for three months, would it be fair if they didn’t deliver on that promise?”
Look at it as another career development opportunity, says Judith Anderson, Principal of Twin Cities-based Emerging Advantage (emergingadvantage.com), a company that helps organizations develop entry-level talent. “The individual will build competencies and skills, have the opportunity to network, gain professional references and stories to tell in interviews.”
If you are offered a full-time position during the contract period, tell that employer you’d be available to start based on the contract end date. You will probably gain more respect from your new employer by stressing how important it is to fulfill your current contract obligation.
“If you do not have a full-time job offer in the pipeline, take the contract work and use it to start climbing your career ladder,” says Judith Anderson. “Remain professional and uphold your obligations.”
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