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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Ask a Career Coach: How Do I Turn My Temp Job into a Permanent Position?

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Hi Rajiv,

I am currently going through my toughest dilemma yet at work: temp life. I recently moved to New York City to work in the fashion industry. I knew it was going to be difficult, but, in fact, it’s challenged me to the core.

I’ve never been a temp, and so I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to act (even though I’ve posed this very question to my supervisor). Should I pretend that I’ve been 100% hired and fully engage myself, or should I consider myself closer to intern status?

Some days I’m treated like a full-time employee, other days like a lowly intern. Sometimes I try to take initiative, and it’s not looked at well, while, other times, I take a back seat and nobody seems happy with that either. I've been there for three months, and at the end of each month, they ask me to stay on.

I truly attempt to engage with my supervisors, but they act like I’m just wasting their time (which is where I get the intern feeling).

So I ask you: Am I overthinking this completely? Do I need to just “suck it up” because this is New York? I honestly just don’t know where I stand, and would love some guidance because I've never had this issue before. I’m typically a pretty outgoing, engaging, take-life-by-the-horns kind of person, but this temp life is making me feel like I’m walking on egg shells. Really appreciate your insight! 

Constantly on Contract

Dear Constantly on Contract,

Oh, that #TempLife can be confusing, right?

First things first, let’s acknowledge that you must be doing something right if they keep extending your contract each month. Even if it’s a last-minute heads up, they wouldn’t ask you back if they didn’t like your work or didn’t think you provided value to the company. You should feel good about that.

Speaking of value, that’s where I like to see people focus their attention in the workplace. Too often we stress over “Am I doing enough?” “Am I doing too much?” “Do they like me?” “Do they hate me?”

That mindset isn’t a helpful one. When you operate in causation mode, your own satisfaction’s entirely dependent on your employer’s reaction. Many people who are interns or on-contract think like this, which limits their ability to contribute to the company. At the end of the day, this is your career we’re talking about—treat this job with the importance it deserves!

How Can You Do That?

If you want to know how to turn a temp job into a permanent position, instead of a causation mindset, shift to a value-based one.

With every scenario you encounter at work, ask yourself: “Can I provide value here? If yes, how?” When you operate from this point of view, you achieve the mental freedom you’re striving for, because you’re acting in the best interest of the whole, and you’re not simply reliant upon a reaction.

This will keep you from constantly trying to get your hands on everything, and it’ll allow you to do quality work where you’re most capable.

Naturally, when an employer sees someone providing support to the organization, they’re grateful for it. In a value-based mindset, you find and seize the right opportunities for you and for the company. If your goal is to turn your short-term job into full-time, it’s essential that you work with the same dedication and diligence that a full-time employee would.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

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