Contract, temp, and freelance work are all incredibly popular employment options within the public sector and often a great way for an employee to 'trial' or get their foot in the door of a new local council or government organisation. The recruitment process for a contract role is often much quicker than a permanent role and consequently a great way for employees to be introduced to the public sector way of life. However, contracts come to an end. And while there are many employees that enjoy the flexibility and diversity that comes with contract work, there are others that will really enjoy working at a particular council or role and wish to stay on a more permanent basis. Or perhaps because of personal commitments or lifestyle changes, these workers have decided that they want more stability and certainty from their job.
While transitioning from a contract role to a permanent role isn’t as easy as clicking your fingers, there are some key steps workers can use to improve their chances of securing a permanent role within the public sector; whether that be with their current organisation or a new one. We outline these steps below:
If you’re currently contracting at a local council or government agency, one of the most direct ways to find and secure a permanent role is to ask them about the permanent opportunities they have available. The global jobs site Glassdoor actually recommend raising the topic of permanent work during your interview for a contract placement. Because many candidates – especially within the public sector - are purely serial contractors, employers won’t know if transitioning to permanent work is something you’d be interested in, unless you express it (Moore, 2017). During an interview, you don’t want to come across as too pushy or presumptuous; that you’re only looking for full-time work, or that you think a permanent position will be a sure thing. But letting your potential employer know you’re open to permanent work should that become available, and asking if there’s potential for the role to become permanent, will not only let the potential employer know of your longer-term goals but it will let you know a little bit more about the role’s longevity ahead of time. You'll have a better understanding of the chances of the contract being extended (if any), and the likelihood of any other openings within the same team etc. If the role is a fixed-short term contract with little chance of being extended, and you’re set on finding permanent employment, you can then decide if continuing on with the particular job opportunity is worth your time.
Alternatively, if you’re coming to the end of your contract and you’ve really enjoyed your time at the organisation, it’s always worth having a discussion with your direct manager or team leader on the status of the current contract role. By this time you will have developed a working relationship with both your team and manager and they’ll also be familiar with your working style, skills and capabilities. Even if it’s not possible to extend a contract (perhaps it was related to a specific project that finishes up) having worked with you and knowing your interest in the organisation puts your manager in a better position to say whether there are other opportunities that will suit your skillset and experience – even if in another team or department. Alternatively, even if there are no permanent opportunities going at that point in time, by letting your manager know of your interest, they can then have your name on file in case any permanent opportunities come up in the future.
It goes without saying that an employer won’t want to lose a valuable team member, so for a contract worker wanting to stay on in a role, it’s critical that they can demonstrate their value to their team and the overall organisation. This, of course, is easier said than done but it can be easy for contract workers to come in, do their allocated tasks and log off for the day. If you want to make a lasting impression on the organisation it’s important to think carefully about processes and how things are done. If you can see ways in which to help you and your team do their jobs more efficiently or better serve your key stakeholders, talk them over with your team and managers. For example, perhaps you have extensive experience with an accounting software that your team are using and offer to set up the automation of particular tasks that previously have been time-consuming for the team.
Additionally, you should also be open and willing to any added work opportunities that come your way. For example, agreeing to support another team member with their workload during a particularly busy period, or sitting on things like compliance training not only demonstrate to everyone that you’re a team player but help you to further develop your skillset and become an indispensable member of the team. Ultimately, finding ways to add value to the processes and systems currently in place will not only help you stand out but highlights to others that you have growth potential with the company. Which will then make it all the more difficult to give you up at the end of your contract period.
Sometimes contract workers make the mistake of isolating themselves from colleagues because they feel like an ‘outsider’. Especially if they have only been with an organisation for a few weeks, it can seem hard to connect with a team that has worked together long-term. However, choosing not to make an effort to get to know your colleagues is a missed opportunity; if a full-time position opens up and your name is on the shortlist, a reference from a team member– particularly one that works closely with you – goes a long way. Because government work requires a significant amount of collaboration between different departments, they’ll be looking for employees that demonstrate they work well with the team and thus having your colleagues vouch for how well you get along and cooperate with others all help to demonstrate what an asset you’d be with the organisation long term. Connecting with colleagues doesn’t mean you have to try and become everyone's best friend, but little things like joining your team for coffee or lunch outings or any other team social events that come up, are effective ways to lean into the situation and act like you’re part of the full-time team.
An added benefit of making strong connections with colleagues while in a contract role is that even if you don’t manage to land a permanent position at said organisation you are still adding people to your professional network. You never know when one of these colleagues could present you with another opportunity further down the track – maybe a previous colleague knows someone at another local council who’s hiring.
Unfortunately, contract roles won’t always turn into full-time opportunities due to a number of factors outside of your control (resourcing, budgets etc.) so if your goal is to find full-time work, it’s always smart to keep your eyes out for opportunities outside the current organisation you're working at – especially as you near the end of your contract period. The majority of government agencies will post jobs on specific government job sites like I Work For NSW, The Australian Public Service Jobs Site or Careers.Vic, so it’s worth regularly browsing these sites to see if and when new opportunities come up, as well as your regular job searching channels (Linkedin, Seek etc).
Many government organisations – especially for permanent positions – will also work with a recruiter to help them secure the right candidate, so if you’re set on full-time work, it’s a great idea to reach out to a recruitment agency that specialises in recruiting within the public sector. The advantage of working with a recruiter is that you can utilise their vast network of clients and market knowledge to help you find the role and organisation best suited to your skillset. They can also support you through the selection process -which for permanent government positions can be quite extensive – to ensure you’re showcasing your experience and capabilities most effectively.
If you would like to find out more about transitioning from contract to permanent roles within the public sector or are actively looking for current permanent positions, you can reach out to Public Sector People. Our specialised consultants can provide you with up-to-date market advice on the available roles within the sector that will best suit your needs and help you to take the next step in your career journey. For more information, you can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Moore. Emily. (2017). 4 Tips To Go From Contract To Full Time. Glassdoor. Retrieved from: https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/4-tips-contract-full-time/