Making Temporary Assignments Permanent

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article on converting temporary positions in to full time opportunities entitled “Making a Temporary Stint Stick.”

The article has some good points but respectfully misses some important steps in this process.

Keeping your eye on the RIGHT target…

One point that I really agree with is the importance of simply doing good work. Advancing the goals of the company and the department is the critical ingredient in converting from temporary to permanent, but there are contextual issues that you need to consider in taking on this challenge. Just like Boxer (the horse in George Orwell’s Animal Farm) learned: hard work in the wrong context will kill you. It is critical that you understand what doing a good job looks like, but the ugly truth is that managers will rarely be able to tell you what that is. Most managers can’t articulate what makes a great employee- they just know it when they see it. If you are working hard in the wrong direction you won’t get to heaven. Here are some tips to set you out on the right course.

  • Who is valued in the group? – First step is to find out who the most valued employees in the group are and what about them is valued. Every manager and group culture is different and values different attributes. When you investigate what is most valued, ask managers and coworkers alike. I think you will find that productivity is only one of the attributes that is appreciated. In addition to producing good work, look to emulate the behaviors that the valued employees display.
  • What are the frustrations? – Make sure you know what are the persistent complaints and frustrations of the department. Many managers have been beaten down by these issues and accepted them as a way of life. Use your perspective as an outsider to identify these areas and take steps to resolve them.
  • What’s annoying? – Know what their pet peeves are and avoid that behavior. Ask people about former employees that did not work out and what people noticed about them.

Keep focused on what is in front of you

When you first start dating someone you do not want to talk about what you need to do to marry them. That’s just creepy! Same is true for someone on a temporary assignment. Keep your focus on doing a good job and doing it in the context of what they consider great. Other than letting your direct report know that you are interested in a permanent offer, you should not talk too much about it. Just do exceptional work.

Enjoy yourself

Assuming a certain level of competency, people want to work with people they like. The cold hard truth is that you can’t fake this. If you don’t like the work or the people you work with, it is going to show and in most environments it is a deal breaker. Keep focusing on what you like about your coworkers and position. If the things you don’t like are insurmountable: LOOK FOR ANOTHER ASSIGNMENT. You will save yourself a lot of grief.

Keep things in perspective

Companies are hiring consultants and temporary employees because they do not know what the economic future holds. Most likely it is not that they do not want to hire people; they just don’t want to have to fire them.

Remember as a known entity you have a huge advantage. So do good work and let things take their course.

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