In the Gig Economy, Contract Work Isn’t the Red Flag It Used to Be

As many tech workers spend months or years on temporary or contract gigs, whether out of economic necessity or personal choice, they may ask themselves, “Will contract work hurt my career?” Meaning, will doing what you need to do or prefer to do to make a living in the tech sector today damage your prospects for permanent, steady, corporate employment tomorrow?

While every employer works differently and will take their own approach to evaluating a candidate’s work history, contract work is no longer the red flag it may have been in decades past. In reality, most folks making hiring decisions understand that the world has changed. Hiring managers and tech recruiters know that contract work in the “gig economy” is no longer an outlier or a sign that a candidate is somehow “less than” just because they work on a contract basis.

That said, employers do want to see certain qualities in the people they hire for essential roles. Therefore, extended periods or multiple stints of contract work may be called into question.

So, you ask, “will taking contract work hurt my career in the tech sector?” So long as you have a compelling and understandable explanation for working temporary or short-term gigs and can demonstrate talent, commitment, and consistency as through lines in your work history, such work should not hurt your chances for a long-term corporate job

Contract Work Probably Won’t Hurt Your Career – Especially Now

As is the case in almost every other sector of the economy, tech companies increasingly rely on contract workers as a core part of their business model rather than as a way to fill in talent gaps here and there. It isn’t unusual for a company to have more temp workers than full-time salaried staff.

Google, for example, employs more than 130,000 people on a contract or temp basis. That exceeds its 123,000 full-time employees. Many companies even incorporate a contract work option in their job search function.

Given that tech companies are in constant need of talented contract workers, they are unlikely to see such work as unusual when it appears on an applicant’s resume. They know that top-notch programmers and others take temp gigs because temporary contracts often pay extremely well while offering exciting or interesting challenges.

Contract work may only become more acute given the instability and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. When long-term planning becomes more difficult, short-term hiring becomes a way to address immediate needs without making lengthy commitments that could backfire if economic conditions worsen.

Companies Recognize the Appeal or Necessity of Contract Work

Tech companies recognize that the economic conditions that gave rise to the “gig economy” play a significant role in why so many people in the industry take on temp work. But they also understand that other factors may make contract work either a necessity or an appealing option at certain junctures in a person’s career.

Perhaps someone needed to take care of an ill family member and needed the flexibility that comes with a contract position. Maybe a new parent took some time away from their full-time career to raise their children but still wanted to keep their skills fresh and remain connected to their chosen profession.

As employers are now more generally attuned to issues of work-life balance and career paths that don’t always follow a straight line, they also will get how contract work fits into these paradigms.

“Will Contract Work Hurt My Career?” Not If You Can Prove You Have the Goods

Historically, hiring managers saw “job hopping” as a potential sign that a candidate either lacked the commitment to stay in a job or had issues that led to their frequent and repeated departures from positions.

But such transitions are simply part of the deal in contract work. Projects end. New opportunities arise. Moving from one gig to another is more just the ebb and flow of being a contractor than a sign of wanderlust or incompetence.

When a tech interviewer asks about your time doing contract work, explain why you took the position and why you (or the project) moved on. With those issues out of the way, the focus will turn to the substantive work you performed and how the experiences contribute to your qualifications for the open position. Whether you are moving on from a term gig or a corporate job, you still need to show that you have the goods. The quality of temporary work you performed proves just as important as it would be in a long-term job, and the people you worked for or with on a contract project can still provide you with positive references.

Finally, remember that in almost all circumstances, a period of contract work on your resume is better than a period of no work at all. Companies would rather hire someone who demonstrates a solid work ethic and commitment to building their skill set than someone who sat around for months doing nothing.

GTN Technical Staffing: Connecting Talented Tech Workers to the Industry’s Best Jobs

Whether you are looking for temporary, contract-based work or a permanent position in the tech industry, GTN Technical Staffing can help connect you to the job you want. We are a leading technical staffing solutions company, encompassing SOW, staff augmentation, and direct hiring placement for Fortune 2000 companies.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you navigate an ever-changing tech employment landscape.

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