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A man, with a sign strapped to his back, uses a megaphone to attract the attention of potential employers as he hands out resumes on Bay Street in the financial district in Toronto, March 5, 2009. (Mark Blinch/REUTERS)
A man, with a sign strapped to his back, uses a megaphone to attract the attention of potential employers as he hands out resumes on Bay Street in the financial district in Toronto, March 5, 2009. (Mark Blinch/REUTERS)

Ask a Career Coach

How can I move from contract jobs to permanent work? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I have been working in Toronto for the past seven years and all my jobs have been contract roles. Now when I apply for a full-time permanent job, the recruiter says, “Why have you not done any full-time jobs?” All my work was obtained through employment agencies, and I was not offered full-time opportunities. Kindly suggest the way out, and how I can get back to full-time work.

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THE ANSWER

You are not alone. Many people have been doing contract work in this economy. This should not be an impediment for you landing a full-time position, though the length of time you have worked on a contract basis is longer than most.

Often, contract positions can lead to full-time positions. You may have to continue to take on contract positions until you find the right organization to work for permanently.

I am curious if you have indicated to any of your past employers that you were interested in a full-time role. It is important to state what you want so the employer knows of your interest. (Often employment agencies have clauses in their contracts with client companies, saying they are not allowed to hire one of the agency’s contract staff for a period of time after the agreement unless this is agreed upon by all parties involved.)

Some employment agencies focus on temporary placements of staff. You will benefit from working with some recruitment agencies that specialize in finding permanent staff placements. Arrange interviews with recruiters from these agencies and provide them with a copy of your résumé. Indicate what type and level of position that you are looking for. Ask them to keep you in mind when they are recruiting for appropriate positions.

Do not rely solely on recruiters or placement agencies to find your full-time position. You need to take an active role in your job search. Be clear about the type and level of position that you are looking for and in what sectors. Do your research on the companies, and the people, you are most interested in working for.

Update your résumé and your covering letter. In your résumé, indicate the different roles you have held, your responsibilities and accomplishments. You do not have to indicate that they were contract positions unless they were less than a year in length. Focus on your skill set and your experience on your résumé and in interviews, rather than the fact that you have been working in contract positions.

Get feedback from your previous temporary employers and the employment agencies about what your strengths, skills and attributes are, as well as the things that you need to refine and develop to secure a full-time position. Practice your interviewing and presentation skills.

Make a list of all your contacts including friends, family, work colleagues, neighbours and school alumni. Continue to add to your network both in person and through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Let everyone you know you are looking for a full-time position. Be clear about the type of positions and the sectors that you are focusing on.

Go for information interviews. The more you practice your interviewing skills the better and more confident you will be. Focus on building your network and making contacts that will eventually lead to employment – on a contract, part-time, and full-time basis. Remember to follow-up with thank-you letters, e-mails, and text messages after each of your meetings and information interviews. Keep in touch on a regular basis with people in your network.

Visibility is important, not only on the web, but also in person. Attend business and professional meetings and social gatherings, develop a website and write a blog. Most positions are filled by people that employers already know or have met. Go after these hidden job opportunities, rather than simply applying to posted positions or using placement agencies.

Build your confidence and take charge of your job search. Don’t rely only on recruiters and their opinions. You know yourself and with some practice can promote yourself better than anyone. Expand your network, look for opportunities and openings, indicate how you can help prospective employers, and you will land the full-time position that you desire.

Bruce Sandy is principal of brucesandy.com and Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting. He is based in Vancouver and works internationally.

Have a question about careers, labour law or management? Send it to our panel of experts: careerquestion@globeandmail.com Your name and address will be kept confidential.

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