How to Manage the Transition Between Job Contracts
The transition between temporary job positions can feel like the moment when a trapeze artist is suspended high in the air — just before being safely caught by their partner.
Nerve-wracking. Stressful. Maybe even a little dangerous.
Just like under the big top, your ability to navigate the end of one contract and the start of another depends on having a partner you can depend on.
That’s why we asked Aerotek Senior Account Recruiting Manager Rachel Klick for advice. She’s been working with contract employees for over six years and has spent much of her tenure helping people like you negotiate the transition period between job contracts.
Her advice is to control what you can, and trust the process.
Upon learning that a temporary contract is nearing its end, many employees have an impulse to slow down and drag out the remaining work for as long as possible.
Klick cautions this is a short-term solution that can cause more trouble than it’s worth. “The mindset should be to finish strong, because in the world of contract employment, supervisors from the most recent position have the greatest influence as references for the next job,” says Klick. “They’ll remember how you finished even more than how you started.”
Keep in mind that whether your contract ends in three days or three weeks, you’ll still need to find a new position. Putting your best foot forward for that process can start right away. Treat each remaining day at your current position like a trial period for your next job, and your transition will go much more smoothly.
Trust your recruiter
The transition between job contracts can be stressful. Develop a solid professional relationship with your staffing partner, so you’ll be able to lean on a reliable ally when the time to leave comes.
But how do you know if a recruiter is trustworthy?
According to Klick, the key is whether or not your recruiter takes an active interest in you as a person. “You should feel comfortable in your relationship with your recruiter from the very first time you speak on the phone,” she says. “They should ask questions about more than just work, such as ‘What are you interested in in your life? What are your hobbies? What's important to you?’”
When your recruiter has taken the right steps to establish trust early in your professional relationship, it makes it much easier to work with them during the transition from position to position. Klick says, “Having a partnership with your recruiter where you trust they’re doing everything in their power to get you back to work can take a lot of the tension out of the situation.”
If your contract is about to end, it may seem like the best way to help your recruiter find you a new position is to be open to accepting any position, whether or not it’s something that actually interests you.
That’s not as helpful to recruiters as sharing an honest opinion about what you most want to do next.
"Without clear communication and that brutal honesty from a contractor telling me what's important to them, I don't have any assurances that the next position I find for them will be a successful fit,” says Klick. “Saying you don’t care or that you’ll take anything actually makes you a less attractive candidate for the next position.” Recruiters need to fill open positions with candidates who will be engaged, positive, and committed to sticking around, she notes.
Build a bridge to the next position
A stressful aspect of job transitions is the amount of uncertainty involved. In the brief period between contracts, a candidate doesn’t know what will be coming next, and a large part of the process is beyond their control.
One way to avoid excess worry? Control what you can, and let the rest be.
There are steps you can — and should — take while you’re still in your current position that can help you thrive in the job market as a candidate for your next position:
- Reach out to your current supervisors, and find two who are willing to write reference letters.
- Update your resume to reflect the most recent job experience, including responsibilities and skills developed.
- Research companies that you’d be interested in working with in your next job, identify what about their culture you find attractive and communicate your findings to your recruiter.
- Brush up on your interview skills, and identify stories from your recent job experience that will serve you well in answering behavioral interview questions.
By focusing on what you can control, rather than worrying about what you can’t, you can make it easier for your recruiter to help you, and easier for HR at your next position to hire you.
Klick stresses that packaging your most recent references — along with a clear understanding of your most valuable new skills — sends a powerful message to potential employers. “The more likely you are to get a recent reference to communicate, essentially, ‘We wish we could hire this person long-term,’ the more that helps you in the long run,” she says.
Do you have a recruiting partner you trust? Aerotek recruiters are here to help guide you through the contract labor process. To find a position that’s suited for your goals, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. Create a free career account today to customize your search.