For some people, the security of a permanent job is one of the most persuading factors when considering what their next role is. Short-to-medium term contracts in the Planning world are very well suited to some, but to others whose lifestyle dictates the need for a longer-term, more secure place of employment, contracting can sometimes seem a bit daunting.
It may seem like too much of a risk with not a lot of long-term reward. However, even if you are drawn to permanent Planning roles within Local Authorities, there are undoubtedly benefits to considering contracting for your next role. Have you ever considered that even if the long-term plan is a permanent role at an appealing Local Authority, a temporary contract role could be the tool that helps you achieve that goal?
One way to look at it is that starting in a temporary role almost equates to a trial of sorts and that not only benefits the employer, but also the contractor. A permanent role is a longer-term commitment which to be successful for all parties requires a large degree of reassurance that the workload, the environment and the location among other things are all acceptable. A temporary contract in the first instance would allow you to experience all of these important factors and decide whether they meet your requirements, whilst removing the pressure of a long-term commitment straight away.
Aliis Kodis was previously a contractor working through Oyster for Eastleigh Borough Council, before being offered a permanent position there, and she found the experience an extremely beneficial and positive one. She describes it as an integral way of trialling whether the role is the right fit for you – ‘You get to fully experience the work you’ll be expected to do and also get to know your teammates and the company culture. It does of course also give the team a chance to get to know you and your strengths and weaknesses.’
As Aliis mentioned, it is just as important for the team and the managers you will be joining as it is for the contractor. The manager that you will work directly under will get the chance to see how you deal with the workload given to them, how well you work with the rest of the team and how much of an impact you make on the general work environment.
It’s a great opportunity for a manager to test the waters with you, and for you to, in turn, impress them. Chief Planning Officer at Sefton MC, Derek McKenzie, almost views it as an ‘extended probationary period’ where the contractor is able to show their capabilities and display just how much they could help the team if they were to join permanently later down the line. ‘We have had contractors who have hit the ground running and have really helped with a backlog of applications, which has definitely put them in a position where should we look to recruit to a permanent position, they would definitely be one of the top contenders’ he said.
From the contractor’s point of view, Aliis agrees, stating that in a lot of cases ‘You are in an excellent position when the interview for the permanent position arises as you are already trained in the role. Assuming you get on with the team and can do the work, it would potentially be risky for the company to hire a different person who then needs to be trained and who may not fit the company culture.’ And even if a permanent position is not available at that time, she believes it is still beneficial; ‘Nothing is ever wasted and at the very least it helps keep your CV up to date which will give you extra confidence the next time you are offered an interview for a permanent position.’ Certainly, at the very least, there is no harm in having recent experience on your CV from a Local Authority, regardless of whether it is interim or permanent.
Even in senior roles such as Chief Planning Officer, a prior temporary contract can be an excellent aid in securing a permanent role at a Local Authority that fits your needs, as it was for Derek. He enjoyed the context of contracting as it allowed him to go to different Local Authorities where he could ‘help tackle particular challenges and fix problems that needed immediate fixing’ whilst cultivating new relationships.
He argues ‘to be successful in Local Government you have to experience different environments and ways of working otherwise you may lack versatility’, and on top of that contracting ‘allows you the attractive option of returning to places you worked well at in the past where you have made great working relationships’. That was the case with Derek, who’s second contracting stint at Sefton saw his Chief Planning Officer role made permanent; a fortunate outcome that he partially attributes to the initial experience and success of the interim role.
He faced stiff competition for the role and still had to go through the extensive interview process, but his previous experience and impact there resulted in the decision to view him as the ideal candidate for the position. Having worked there already on an interim basis where he had generated a collaborative and efficient working relationship with his colleagues, he felt committing to a permanent role made sense all round – something he had not predicted when originally re-joining to take up the interim role.
In essence, although there may be reservations about contracting at Local Authorities when permanent roles seem much more feasible, there are clear benefits to taking on a temporary role even if there isn’t a clear picture of what the future may hold in that role. It is a foot in the door, and an opportunity to stake your claim for a longer-term role there should it be a place that provides a positive and challenging work environment that makes you want to stay.
With the right mind-set and application, a temporary contract can only prove beneficial for both career progression and future prospects. But perhaps the biggest benefit is that it ensures the job is right for you. As mentioned, a temporary contract that can often masquerade as a trial for a permanent role is the perfect way to remove any uncertainty. It will only help you come to an even more informed decision should there be the option to make your role permanent, meaning that control over the next step in your career-path is further increased to a level you may not have previously thought about.
If you would like to discuss current Contract or Permanent opportunities available at Oyster, you can get in touch with James via email: James.Bennett@oysterpartnership.com or give him a call on 020 7766 9075.
You can also check out some of the latest Town Planning jobs here.