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What happened to getting a foot in the door?

There was a time when you might accept a less than desirable position at a company, knowing that through dedication and hard work your rise to a better position would be inevitable. It was called “getting a foot in the door” and it was a phrase used by college grads to experienced professionals as a call to battle when entering the labor force. With the rise of the contract worker, and short-term employment gaining on full-time employment, the dream of mailroom clerk to CEO has gotten a lot harder. Especially, if you want to stay at the same company.

Companies continue to look to contract workers to upshift and downshift in an economy that remains volatile. For those looking for full-time employment, it may seem harsh, but the use of contract workers has helped many of these companies survive difficult times. The exact percentage of the workforce that is temporary or contract is hard to gauge, but it is without a doubt rising. At some large companies, contract workers can comprise anywhere from 20% – 50% of their staffing. Economists believe that upwards of 20 million people in the U.S. are contract workers.

The use of contract workers is more than a passing trend. Contract workers are a growing and integral part of the nation’s workforce. Also, with the emergence of universal healthcare, the line between being an in-demand contract worker and a full-time employee is getting a lot thinner. There is stability in full-time employment for both the employee and the employer. For companies, striking the right balance between contract and full-time employees is still being flushed out. In fact, Target recently went in the other direction by eliminating a big part of their 3rd party workforce and hiring full-timers. “We’ve got to a stage where almost half the team is in 3rd parties. It’s unhealthy,” said Target CIO Mike McNamara.

Compared to a decade ago, Execuforce has a lot more contract and executive consulting positions available than permanent placement. We don’t see this trend changing anytime soon; even with an improving economy. We would say to would be job seekers that the line between what is full time and what is contract is blurring. A change in thinking may be in order. Having the stability of a full-time position is great, but being a well-compensated and in demand contract worker also has its own freedoms and benefits.

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