Career Paths Through Staffing Firms: Which Direction Is Right for
BackBy Katherine Spencer Lee — December 2007
When most people consider a staffing firm for help finding a job, they tend to focus on one of two career paths: project work or full-time positions.
What they often don’t realize is that many firms also offer a third option: a project position that can transition to full-time employment if both parties are satisfied with the arrangement. Here’s more information about each of the three job tracks and who is an ideal candidate for each one:
- Project Work: Project work provides exposure to new technologies, work environments and companies, meaning constant opportunities to broaden your skill set and marketability. You also have greater control over your work hours because you can accept or decline assignments based on your availability.
Consulting isn’t for everyone, though. It’s best for people who thrive on change and can adapt easily to different corporate cultures. For example, you might be asked to assume a leadership role on a database project at a small insurance firm and then, at the next assignment, be a supporting player on a similar initiative at a large, conservative manufacturer. Whatever the assignment, you need to be able to fit in well at client companies, regardless of their unique requirements.
- Project-to-Full-Time Work: Ever wish you could see what it’s really like to work for an employer before committing to a full-time job there? If so, project-to-full-time positions might be ideal for you. These roles give you the chance to “test-drive” a job, making sure you like the responsibilities, work environment, co-workers and management team. At the same time, companies get a chance to see your talents firsthand and determine whether you’re a good match. This arrangement is a definite plus if you don’t interview well but really shine on the job.
Project-to-full-time positions are often best for individuals who aren’t working — there’s some risk to these jobs, so you might hesitate to leave a full-time role for an offer that’s not set in stone. Additionally, organizations typically want candidates for project-to-full-time jobs to start immediately, and they might not be able to wait until you’ve given proper notice to your present employer.
- Full-Time Work: Full-time positions are good choices for people who prefer stability, know exactly what they want in their next jobs and can make a long-term commitment to a company. Just remember that many professional staffing firms don’t just do short-term placements but handle full-time jobs, as well.
Regardless of whether you’re interested in project, project-to-full-time or full-time work, or you are not sure which suits your needs, you should invest time in selecting the right firm. Look for:
- Knowledge of IT: Someone who’s never heard of the certification you possess might not be in a strong position to market your talents appropriately to employers. The best staffing firms stay on top of professional trends. Look for services that specialize in IT and that you feel can find appropriate assignments or jobs for you.
- Stable Record: How long has the firm been in your market? What business connections does it have in the community? You want to work for staffing firms that can present you with the best range of job possibilities.
- Professional Staff: Everything matters, from how the receptionist greets you to whether staffing managers return your calls promptly. Remember, you will be interacting with these individuals frequently, so you want to work with a firm whose employees are courteous and responsive.
- No Fees: Reputable staffing services will not charge you for job-hunting assistance. Steer clear of any organizations that require you to pay even minor fees for finding project or full-time work.
Staffing firms can be a useful resource during a job search and can introduce you to career paths you might not have considered, such as consulting.
Just be sure to do your part to ensure a successful relationship — be clear about the types of opportunities you prefer, including the technologies that interest you most and the work environments in which you tend to thrive. You’ll increase your chances of being matched to the best jobs for your needs.
Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.