Careers advice

How to turn a contract role into a permanent one

Follow these three simple rules.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to turn a contract job into a permanent one
  • The advantages of a permanent role over a contract job

There’s lots to love about contract work – from picking the jobs that you find most interesting, to having greater control over your work-life balance to often earning more than you would for the equivalent hours as a salaried employee.

However, there’s one major drawback of contracting when compared with being a full-time member of staff – security. And, when economic times are tough, this insecurity can be a reason to make a change.

If you’re looking to convert your contract job to a permanent role, we’ve put together this list of handy tips to get you on your way.

How to make your contract job permanent

1. Be up front about what you want

Now, we’re not suggesting that, on day one of your contract job, you blaze in there and start asking about making your role permanent. That would be premature. However, once you’ve done some of the things further down on this list, it makes a lot of sense to have an honest and open conversation with your manager about what you want. After all, they’re not a mindreader and, because there are many perks to contract life, they may well think that you’re more than happy with your current situation. 

There are a number of times that make sense to have this conversation:

  • Towards the end of your contract: if your contract has nearly run its course, rather than talking about renewing it, enquire if there are permanent positions going.
  • During a performance review: coming off the back of a stellar quarter? Recorded some big wins in the past month? A performance review could represent the perfect opportunity to ask about the possibility of going permanent.
  • When the company is hiring: if you know the organisation is actively seeking staff, if it’s a role you’d be interested in, put your name forward.

Your boss isn't psychic, so be honest about what you're hoping for.

2. Make yourself indispensable

Unlike someone applying for a role at the company from the outside, you have the rather important headstart of being able to show the employer what you can do.

There are a number of ways to really stand out as a contractor:

  • Meet, and surpass your deadlines: if you’re able to not only deliver high quality work, but achieve it faster than the hard deadline your boss has set you, this will show them that you’re the kind of person they want on their team full time.
  • Absorb information first time around: there’s nothing that will entrench your status as a contractor more than if you’re constantly needing to be reminded of company policies, strategies and objectives. If your aim is to become permanent, absorb this information first time around, as an in-house employee would.
  • Suggest improvements where you see potential: there are a few reasons why this is a good idea. Firstly, if it’s of use to your manager, it’s worth doing. Second, in doing so you show you’re invested in the organisation’s success, and not just turning up for a pay cheque. And finally, if your manager likes what you’re suggesting, they might start thinking they could use these insights on a more permanent basis.
  • Live the organisation’s values: companies put a lot of emphasis on their culture and values, and this stuff gets noticed more than you might think. If you’re able to demonstrate that living these values comes naturally to you, you’ll be seen as a perfect fit for the organisation in the long run.

Become an integral part of the team.

3. Be a team player

As well as being good at the technical side of your role, we know that NZ employers put a lot of emphasis on staff who work well with those around them. In other words, you need to have great soft skills

A few pointers for things that will definitely go down well in this arena include:

  • Speaking up in meetings: if you’ve got useful thoughts and feedback to give, don’t be shy about giving them – this is a perfect opportunity to show how you can go beyond your brief to add extra value.
  • Offering your skills: it’s very common for contractors to be hired because they’re specialists in certain areas. As well as actually completing these tasks, why not offer to run a 101 workshop on how you do what you do, so that others can learn.
  • Network: become a familiar face around the office, even with those that aren’t in your immediate team. A good reputation goes a long way, and you’d be surprised how this might feed back to decision-makers.
  • Equally, you should be ready to learn from others in the organisation. The contract employee who comes in, does their work and goes home again isn’t usually the person who gets considered when permanent roles come up. Show that you’re keen to develop as a professional, whether that means attending workshops put on by others, taking advantage of company upskilling courses or using some of your own time to improve your skill set, which the company would benefit from too.

The benefits of permanent jobs over contract roles

While contract roles can offer more flexibility and sometimes better pay than permanent jobs, the latter do have several real advantages:

  • Security: as a permanent employee, you have much greater job security than someone on a contract. This can be particularly important if the organisation comes across hard financial times and needs to reduce its headcount. Frequently, people on contract roles can be more likely to face redundancy than permanent employees, as the process for the latter is more complicated. Even if there are no shock events like redundancies, permanent staff don’t have the deadline of a contract end-date looming over them, and the prospect of having to find a new role if the contract isn’t renewed.
  • Development: companies are more likely to offer long-term development and skill building opportunities to permanent employees as opposed to contractors. The reasoning behind this is fairly straightforward, permanent employees are likely to stick around longer, so the organisation has more to gain by upskilling these people.
  • Progression: as well as opportunities to learn, permanent employees are also far more likely to be offered promotions than contractors. Indeed, it would be very unusual for a contractor to be offered a promotion, unless part of the offer was to join the organisation on a permanent basis.
  • Other perks: you might find a number of employee perks in the employment agreement of a permanent staff member, that aren’t featured in that of a contractor.