Ask Aerotek: Why Contract Work Is a Great Start for Recent College Grads

Congratulations! You’re a college graduate. College was amazing and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities for your future. Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a career that provided ongoing learning, opportunities to try out different roles in a variety of professional environments, and still brought in a steady paycheck? Read on as Aerotek’s top recruiters share why contract employment provides ample opportunities for career exploration.

1. Contract employment gives you the luxury to try different things — and gain experience in the professional world
By consensus, Aerotek’s recruiter's agree that contract employment offers a great opportunity to test-drive industries, roles and work environments without having to make a long-term commitment. Several recruiters noted that this is especially advantageous for people who did not have internship experiences while in college.

It’s not uncommon to graduate from college assuming you’ll be working in a particular field, only to learn later that it’s not at all what you had expected it would be. With a contract job, once your commitment is over, you can move on and explore something new — something that may fit your career goals better. 

In addition, contract work can provide valuable professional experience you won’t get in the classroom. 

“Contract employment gives new graduates exposure to the real working world,” says Senior Account Recruiting Manager Stephanie Sanders. “It’s a chance to adjust to regular hours, professional dress, interacting with colleagues, managers and senior professionals. It helps someone just starting a career to develop that professional demeanor.”

2. Contract employment helps build your resume
New graduates often face a Catch-22: They need work experience to get a job, but they can’t get a job because they have no work experience. 

“Managers [sometimes] prefer hiring people who are already employed,” says Lead Recruiter Alexandra Horst. “Getting into a contract position after college is a great way to gain experience, add skills and be more attractive to companies.” 

Horst also urges candidates to consistently add their new skills and responsibilities to their resumes.

3. Contract employment gets your foot in the door
The hiring process for permanent positions can be rigorous. 

“Since companies use staffing agencies to fill immediate needs,” says the Career Insights team at University of Washington, “contracting offers a way to quickly get a paying job in your field.”  

Once you’re placed in an assignment, who knows where it could lead? While it isn’t always the case, some contract jobs can turn into permanent ones. Alternatively, once you’ve proven yourself, you become a much more attractive hire for future employers. 

4. Recruiters can connect you to opportunities
One of the greatest benefits of working with a staffing agency is the network they bring. Staffing professionals are on the front lines of HR, they understand what organizations are looking for and, quite often, they know exactly whom to talk to when it comes to hiring decisions.

“Recruiters can really help new graduates propel their careers,” says Horst. “They’re in constant contact with hiring managers at top companies and can share expertise about who is hiring, how to gear your resume to them and what they look for during the interview process.”  

In addition, notes Sr. Professional Account Recruiting Manager Dana Sheehan, “Partnering with recruiters can help new graduates understand how to approach behavioral interview questions and, ultimately, how to put their best foot forward with managers.” 

5. The contract work culture was made for today’s generation
In the wake of the Great Recession, the job market has changed. Today’s young professionals have different priorities than their parents had. They value work-life balance, they want flexibility and they prioritize altruistic pursuits. 

In many cases, contract employment is the ideal lifestyle for today’s entry-level professionals. 

“The 9-to-5 grind is over,” says Sara Horowitz, writing for Fast Company. “I call that traditional view, ‘Big Work’…that's not where the future is.” 

Millennials are “embracing freelancing in a way no other generation has,” Horowitz adds.

Are you a recent grad looking for your first career break? Let’s talk

Aerotek recruiter panel members:
Paul GianfagnaAlexandra HirtAlexandra HorstKate KellerClaire KriegerJulie LewisMatt LubeckiJake PleggeGina C. PrudhommeRoss MintonKaitlin MorkelJackie RossStephanie SandersDana SheehanMatt Wiehe and Sam Yeomans contributed to this article.