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THE QUESTION

I just finished university and I was hired as a temp in an entry-level position with a large local tech firm. It's in my chosen field. Even though I'm not exactly doing the job I wanted and it's not permanent, it's good experience. The temp job could end in a month but I will have gained three months of experience. The pay is not amazing but definitely livable.

Here's my dilemma: I have been offered a full-time permanent job with better pay and great benefits at a company that doesn't interest me. The employer will train me but I will end up gaining no experience in my field.

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Should I keep working at my temp job with continued contract extensions and cross my fingers that they hire me? Or do I take the better-paying, boring job just for the sake of paying off looming student loans?

THE ANSWER

Many young graduates would envy your position. That said, I understand your dilemma. Who wouldn't want a permanent job with steady pay and benefits – but at the expense of what?

Your description of "better-paying, boring job" in comparison with working in your chosen field makes me wonder how long you would be satisfied in that role. It sounds as if your gut knows what you want but you are, rightly, acknowledging there is a risk you may not get a full-time role there. Ultimately, this has to be your decision but keep in mind that careers are marathons, not sprints. Reflect on how each opportunity might serve your longer-term goals.

Given your interest in the tech field and that you have a foot in the door of a large company, there's merit in considering this option seriously. I'd encourage you to go well beyond "crossing your fingers" in hopes that they offer you a job. There's more you can do.

First, have a conversation with human resources immediately to let them know of your situation. Share your interest in developing your career with this company and ask if there's an opportunity for contract renewals or permanent employment. It's okay to let them know about your other job offer – it shows you are valuable. But don't present this as a threat, just a crossroads and a decision you need to make.

Be authentic in conveying your real desire to develop your career with this company. If they recognize your potential, this conversation might open doors. Regardless of HR's immediate response, if you stay for the duration of your contract, make the most of the opportunity.

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Show them your stuff

No matter how menial your tasks are, be seen as a keener. Take every task seriously; offer to do more; have a winning attitude; be a team player; make sure people like working with you. I'm sure you're already doing this, but kick it up a notch wherever you can. When appropriate, ask questions about the company, show your interest and don't be shy to let the right people know that you are keen to learn and develop, and would love the opportunity to stay on. Smart employers recognize the keepers.

Network strategically

Don't wait to be noticed. Connect with the right people. Your supervisor should be an important source for a career conversation. And cast your net beyond your department. Are there other areas in the business about which you would like to learn more? Find out who's who and ask if they can talk for a few minutes about careers within their area and in the field.

Do this networking carefully and be respectful of people's time. The professional contacts you make today and the impressions you leave can open doors at any time in your career. Then maintain those contacts using LinkedIn.

If the time isn't right and you don't get a permanent role or contract extension, you can still use this temp job to earn good references (and ideas for other possibilities) that can be helpful in your career search.

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You are in a good position. As a temp employee you can have open conversations about developing your career. If you maximize this opportunity, you will have added to your professional network, acquired experience, updated your résumé, and garnered some solid references – all stepping stones in the right direction.

Eileen Chadnick is a work-life and career coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto.

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