Deciding whether to switch from temp to permanent employment?
September 13, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

For those who made the switch from temp to permanent work, what factors did you consider, what helped you decide?

I have been a contractor for just over a year now. The place I'm currently at, 2 extensions have been offered to me, both of which I accepted without hesitation. Now the permanent recruitment's taking place. Issues are:

1. I'm not sure whether I accepted the extensions because I liked the place, or because the job hunt was failing miserably. I think it's both.
2. I'm not sure whether *they* offered me the extensions because they liked me or because they were truly desperate (this place has had very high turnover due to a bad manager but now that she's been replaced by a really good one that's all about to change). If it's the latter, I'll have no advantage over any other candidates who apply (and I suspect it'll be very competitive)
3. I'm based entirely at one hospital at the moment. The permanent recruitment's recruiting for the district, which covers 3 hospitals. So I may not necessarily be based at the hospital I'm now in. If this is the case and I have to adapt to a new workplace all over again (though of course the differences won't be as great), I'd rather do that while being on the move and travelling.
4. With the market as it is, permanent's not permanent. Well, it never is but job cuts have just been made. At the moment our jobs as entry level people are safe but who knows. So why should I settle for permanent that is foreseeably temporary when I can just continue being temp?
5. I'm scared I will ascend to the top of the learning curve (it's a small, subacute hospital, i.e. no weird or wonderful cases) and also exhaust the sense of tourist novelty. Part of the reason I temp is because I think ok I have x amount of time to explore the area so I'm out every weekend. I'm worried the thought of being permanent, I'll take the area for granted and not explore. And I don't want that.

But then I'm worried that these doubts I'm having is simply my commitment phobia talking. I'm single so I have no-one to tie me down and make me stay at a particular place. Money's not an issue as I've earned more than enough (about 1.5x market rate) from this current place at the moment to be comfortable for a while. I guess I should go with the pros now:

1. It's far away enough from my parents that I can be independent (this is the major point). If I became permanent, it would be my first time renting and setting up a place, i.e. being a grown-up (as a temp work has always provided the accommodation and before that I was at uni living with the parents which means yes I've never had permanent employment before).
2. It's a nice area. Plenty of things to do (yes I do know what I wrote for point 5 above, and that's why I'm really scared).
3. Work colleagues are all really nice. We've all gone out for dinner multiple times.
4. It would be nice not to have to job hunt every 3 months.

What other factors should I be considering in whether I should make the switch? Is it something you should have no hesitation about? (like me accepting those extensions?) Or is normal to have thoughts like this?
posted by glache to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You didn't say whether or not you actually enjoy the work, which I would consider a major factor (if not the very most important one). It's hard to find a job you like, and if you like this one, it makes sense to keep doing it.

Another consideration is benefits - most temporary employees don't have any (or very good) employer-provided benefits. Would a permanent position provide you with health insurance? 401k? Those things are pretty important long-term.
posted by something something at 1:56 PM on September 13, 2012

You say that "with the market as it is, permanent's not permanent." However -- the thing to bear in mind that in ANY market, permanent is also not permanent. But I don't mean "they could fire you at any time," I mean "you have the right to quit later on too."

I was you about a year ago, where I was a temp who was offered a permanent position. It's not my dream job by any stretch, and the best I could say about it was that I didn't totally hate it, but it was an income. But then someone reminded me that no job is forever -- you are not signing your total life away. I also dipped into a couple of Human Resources/career counseling blogs which all said that, these days, two years in the same job is considered a decent run.

What tipped the balance for me is that I had some debt I really wanted to get rid of, and two years would be just about the amount of time I'd need to take care of it. Plus, that would be two more years for the job market to improve. Also, it's a lot more impressive for you to be trying to get work when you've had permenent work rather than a lot of temp work.

I still am not crazy about this job, but it's been a year now, and I am indeed still on track to be debt-free in one year. And I do indeed still have every intention of looking for a better job at that point (although, I am occasionally sending out resumes to super-awesome-fantastic-dream-job things I notice now and then).

Accepting a job does not mean that you have to stay there for the next 40 years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on September 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

However -- the thing to bear in mind that in ANY market, permanent is also not permanent. But I don't mean "they could fire you at any time," I mean "you have the right to quit later on too."

Agree with this. "Permanent" is such a big scary word, but it's really not. For me, things have gotten to the point where the only difference between the two types of employment is that the latter gives you insurance and paid time off. There's very little "permanent" about it. (In fact, contractors are often more likely to survive lay-offs than their "permanent" co-workers.)

They're offering you a job with (I'm assuming) benefits and paid time off. If you want those things, take it. You're not obligated to stay a day longer than you want to.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:16 PM on September 13, 2012

One of my good friends finally made the switch from contractor to permanent employee after a decade of temp work at many different places of business. The factors that lead to this decision were:

1. The economy sucks, she wanted to have more stability. Knowing that (barring anything weird) the job would be there a few months out was a GOOD THING. If you're looking to move out and set up house on your own, this is vital. I imagine it's much easier to sign a lease for a year knowing that you're going to have a job a year out.

2. Benefits. She receives health benefits through her husband's work, but she was finally on a 401(k) plan and other 'safety nets' like short-term disability, etc. Plus, if something happened to her husband's job, they'd be in a better position than if she were contracting and had no benefits to fall back on.

3. She'd been working with the company for a while (I think a year?) and liked it. It was a long "test the waters" period for both her and the company. They were a good fit, so that was a big factor in her decision-making.

4. Easier to do taxes. She hates doing taxes so this was a big thing for her. YMMV, of course!

I'd say go for it. It sounds like you have a lot to gain, and not much to lose. If you hate it, you can still leave. You're not going to be obligated to work there forever. You can continue to search for a better job while you're working there as a permanent employee. You're pretty much guaranteed consistent work now (again, barring anything weird) and would be getting benefits. Plus, you have the added bonus of knowing the local culture BEFORE signing on permanently. This is a luxury that not a lot of people have.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:17 PM on September 13, 2012

Sure it's normal to think about things like this. And you've outlined your pros and cons well. But in this instance I think it's really a no-brainer. Take the job!

You like to try new things, and you've never had a permanent job. That's a new thing to try! You've also never rented your own place. Another new thing! It's really all a matter of how you look at it.

I am assuming that you're pretty young, so you probably aren't as obsessed with things like 401k accounts and medical benefits as we oldsters are, but really they're pretty important. The sooner you start a 401k, the sooner you can retire. Health benefits are pretty key, too, for anyone at any age. Getting paid days off are nice, too, and paid holidays. At this point in my life I'd only take a contract position if my life (rent, food, whatever) absolutely depended on it.

You can always quit a permanent job. Some of my friends are ALWAYS shopping for newer better jobs, and change jobs every two/three years. I'm totally the outlier, having had the same job for almost 13 years.
posted by clone boulevard at 3:41 PM on September 13, 2012

I went from contract to staff twice at my current place of employment (as in subcontractor to contractor, then to full staff) and while this is not my dream job either, each time the benefits (not just the benefits package, but the bump in salary--which you may see--and the fact that I'm treated as more of a "real person" in the workplace sense) made it worthwhile. And if one is not independently wealthy, a job > no job.

I'm scared I will ascend to the top of the learning curve

This, if it is ever true, is not something to regret.
posted by psoas at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2012

There is no disadvantage to having a permanent job. It's only permanent on the employer's side; you can still quit any time you want to!
posted by looli at 7:53 PM on September 13, 2012

I've gone contract to permanent and so have others in my department. I agree that even though the word "permanent" is scary, it's not really any different from accepting another long-term contract position. You can quit anytime you want. As others say, the salary and benefits bump can be significant and there is nothing wrong with taking the job for those reasons alone.

I think it looks good to future employers to see the conversion from temp to permanent. It shows that your employer thought you were worth bringing on. You can also choose to lump all of your experience with that employer under one header. So if you worked temp 2010-2011, then were permanent from 2011-2012, you could just put:

Widget Inspector, XYZ company, 2010-present

So even if you quit the permanent job after 6 months, you have 2 years total in that role so you look less flaky. (In my opinion.)

(of course, on a job application you have to disclose your actual employers for the relevant time periods.)
posted by cabingirl at 11:33 AM on September 14, 2012

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