The rise of temporary and contract has increased dramatically over the last few years and become a favourable employment strategy for organisations during the uncertainty of the pandemic.
But while the initial threat of COVID-19 has died down, the demand for contract work is continuing to rise – especially for employers who may have previously sought the job security of a permanent role. Why? Those working in contract roles can often find work quickly due to shorter timeframes, work according to their own schedule and gain new skills and experiences across multiple industries.
If you’ve been considering moving into contract work, read below to find out more about its growth within the job market and the tips to help secure your next contract role in the public sector.
The Current Landscape
As of August 2020, the industries that had the highest percentage of independent contractors were construction at 24%, administrative and support services at 18% and professional, scientific and technical services at 15%(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021). While industries have seen a steady increase in flexible and contract work over the last decade, COVID-19 has re-shaped how organisations use contingent workers. Initially, the pandemic's impact on the global economy caused many workers to lose their jobs and exposed others to new working structures. But in doing so, it’s made workers and organisations aware of the potential and variety within nonstandard work models, like talent sharing or 80% work for 80% pay. These alternate job models allow more flexibility within workplace management and cost savings for the organisation. A leading research and advisory company Gartner conducted a survey of 800 plus HR leaders in June last year which revealed that 32% of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure (Baker. M, 2020).
These statistics are reinforced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which conducted a separate survey aimed at executives asking to predict the biggest changes to the workforce moving forward. 70% of executives predicted that more temporary workers and contractors will be used onsite for organisations than before the pandemic (Cheng, W. et al. (2020). In addition to contract work alleviating cost pressures- which was a key priority for many organisations coming out of 2020- these executives also believed that greater digitalisation and automation and the increased reliance on remote work will create a greater demand for independent contractor’s long term.
If these statistics are anything to go by, active job seekers should expect to see the number of temporary and contract advertisements across both the public and private sector increase dramatically over the next few years – especially in relation to construction, professional, scientific and technical services and administrative and support services. Consequently, for those currently looking for new opportunities, considering contract work could be a great career move.
The Benefits of Contract Work
Diversify Your Skillset- First and foremost, contract roles provide you with the unique opportunity to diversify your skillset, by allowing you to work on different and varied projects within a number of different organisations, across a range of different industries. You’ll gain specific knowledge and skills from all the different experiences you have, which will ultimately make you a more attractive candidate for future employers.
Work-Life Balance- the beauty of contract work is that you have a considerable amount of control over what assignments or projects you accept and can therefore revolve them around your schedule. For example, if you need to take a part-time role while you’re involved in study or want to pick some extra-short term work while you save for a big financial commitment (like buying a house), you can look for contract work around this, allowing for greater flexibility and overall work-life balance.
Exposure to New Professional Experiences- by taking on and working on different projects, you have the opportunity to not only develop your skillset but meet and work with different people across a range of industries. This, in turn helps you to strengthen and diversify your professional network, which is not only invaluable when seeking future job opportunities (either contract or temporary) but can expose you to new experiences or opportunities you would have otherwise never been aware of.
Hourly rates- The majority of contract roles will offer hourly or daily rates to candidates. The advantage of this is that you’ll always be paid for the hours and days you work, as opposed to a yearly salary which is a fixed regular payment and doesn’t factor in any overtime you put in. For advice on current market rates for different roles and negotiating your hourly or daily rate, you can reach out to a recruiting consultancy- especially one that specialises in contract roles.
High Demand- as shown in the latest projections by global research and consulting firms, contract work is only going to increase as time goes on. Many organisations are looking to hire professionals for specific and short-term projects, and consequently, job seekers might come across more opportunities that cater to their skills, experience and interests if they consider contract rather than permanent roles.
Tips To Help Secure A Contract Role/Move Into The Contracting Space
1. Try Before You Buy
Contracting isn't for everyone, so before you take the plunge, assess the market. Reach out to a recruiter and your professional network to gauge what interest/demand there is for your skillset. You can also look online, to assess how much regular contract work you'd be able to secure. Being a contractor also means constantly looking out for gigs, at least in the beginning. Before applying for roles, you need to ask yourself the following questions: do you have the patience and persistence for long periods of job hunting? Can you support yourself at times of limited work? How flexible are you? Does your schedule or lifestyle allow you to work different/odd shifts?
2.Update & Format Your CV
Especially for shorter-term contract positions, Government departments or teams will require someone who matches all of the selection criteria listed, so they can easily hit the ground running on a particular project. Consequently, when applying for contract roles, it's important to ensure you firstly meet all the specified criteria in the job advertisement and that this is demonstrated in your resume - in your previous work experiences and your skillset. This will require you to make specific edits to the resume to ensure it aligns with the particular position you're going for. Government departments will also often ask for CVs to be formatted in a specific way, so ensure it is up-to-date and meeting specific format requirements before sending it off.
3. Foster Your Professional Network
The cliche can often ring true; it's not what you know, it's who you know. Especially, in the early stages of looking for work the best way to be aware of new opportunities and potentially even secure a reference, is to reach out to your professional network. You never know what a former colleague or manager might be able to offer. Try and go along to as many networking events within your industry, to help build relationships and make new contacts, and also invest time in following these new contacts up through online networks like Linkedin.
The more people you know within your industry, the better chances you'll have of knowing about new opportunities - especially if you've let it known you're interested in a job change or pursuing contract work. Connecting with a recruiter who specialises in your industry is also a great first step when starting your job search, as they will already have established contacts within your desired industry and can help you find the best options to suit your skill set, interests and values.
If delving into the contract job market is something you’re seriously considering, but you’re at a loss at where to start OR you’re looking for specific advice about the current roles available, what rates to set or what organisations will provide the best career development options, you can reach out to the Public Sector Team.
Our consultants specialise in recruiting contract and temporary roles within the public sector, and more than willing to help you make the successful transition from a permanent to a contract worker. Contact us at the below address for more information:
Ready to start your next role? Start the job search today!
 Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2021. Working Arrangements- August 2020. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/earnings-and-work-hours/working-arrangements/latest-release
 Baker, M. (2020). 9 Future Of Work Trends Post- COVID-19. Gartner. Retrieved from: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/9-future-of-work-trends-post-covid-19/
 Cheng, W., De Smet., A., Dua., A., Lund, L., Robinson, O., Sanghvi, S. (2020). What 800 Executives Envision For The Post Pandemic Workforce. McKinsey Global Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/what-800-executives-envision-for-the-postpandemic-workforce