In today’s workforce, there are many opportunities to be a contractor, consultant, etc. (or whatever term you will be defined as).  In every industry, you can pick up a short or long-term contract in some of the biggest corporations out there – the money is great, but at what cost?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a contract or a permanent full-time employee?

I’m going to be a devils’ advocate here, as I’ve been in both permanent and contract positions in the past, and I will tell you I’ve had great experiences with both statuses.  As a full-time employee, not only do you have stability but also the perks associated with benefits, paid time off, sick days, available retirement options and those oh so great Christmas bonuses!  At a dynamic corporation you can have those in-depth mentoring conversations and opportunities regarding your career direction, how you can evolve within the corporation.  You feel all warm and fuzzy because you believe that this company has a real vested interest in your future – like ‘Wow, I’m going to grow and stay here until I retire!’  You can go ahead and move forward with purchasing that house, going on that uber expensive trip to Fiji, maybe buy that new car you had your eye on, because, after all, you are stable, right? Right?

Fast forward to todays’ corporate climate, where the objective of upper management is to crunch the numbers as hard as possible.  There have been occasions where the people with most risk to be on the chopping block are not the new employees (there goes the saying ‘first hired first fired’), but the ones who have accrued the most of everything that corporation offered them over the years – the 401k, promotions, more money. All of a sudden, employees who had the best rapport with several teams over the years are shifted into positions where the most strife exists, and all of a sudden there are ‘performance issues’.  What often happens next is a ‘write up’, something that ends up in your file that corrupts your ‘clean’ record.   Being written up not only puts the kibbutz on being able to transfer to another position within the firm but also establishes a red flag that management will factor in when deciding who gets the ax next budget season.  I wish I could say that these sequence of events occur in one particular industry, but take it from someone who’s worked in a plethora of diverse corporations, I have seen (and experienced) this type of dance play out too many times to count.

There are numerous advantages to being a contractor.  The strongest attribute is that you can get a great ‘sampling’ of other industries, broaden your network of business connections, learn new responsibilities and technologies, and sometimes have flexible schedule options.  The downside of being a contractor is that you are sometimes being treated like a ‘second-class citizen’, even though you are in the trenches with your full-time counterparts.  Frankly, there are times where you are doing more work than they are!  You are frequently not included in functions nor receive perks that full-time employees enjoy.  It might seem like a small thing (to a full-time employee), but can affect contractor morale – you want to get rewarded for your hard work?  You are compensated well, but every time you take off, or the company closes early due to holidays, that’s money coming out of your check.  I remember dreading holidays while watching full-time folks go on vacation, leaving me to cover for them. Let’s not forget to mention those contracts dangling the promise of temp to hire after 6 months, only to have your contract end right on the cusp of 6 months (the work has slowed down, they have decided to hire an internal employee, or all of a sudden your work is not up to par to ‘deserve’ full-time employment).

In conclusion I can certainly ascribe that the pros and cons of each employment status is a double-edged sword – I’ve gained invaluable experience being in both capacities, and that has developed my corporate presence.  You really have to take a good long look at your body of experience and decide where your strengths will make the biggest impact for you, not necessarily the corporation itself, as that machine will function regardless.  I’m talking some indelible takeaways here: your peace of mind and your work-life balance.  Whether you are full-time or contractor, ask yourself this – are you being valued here, or do you need to cut your losses and look for resolution in a better corporate home, or perhaps go into business for yourself?  If you are honest with yourself you will get your answers.  Think smart.

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