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How do I transition from temporary to permanent employment?

Dear Coach Joan,

After a year of temping I have finally found a position I really like in an excellent company that is both close to home and in a growing industry. I have been there for three months so far, and I see that there are permanent employees at the company doing similar jobs to mine, yet I have learned that their benefits and pay exceed mine. Plus, they are offered all kinds of training classes, invitations to meetings and offsites, and basically a career path, where I am just offered my basic pay, no job security, no job growth and limited benefits.

I know that there are other temporary workers who’d also like to become permanent and I realize there are probably right ways and wrong ways to go about becoming a full time employee. Could you kindly let me know what would be involved and what some smart strategies might be? Should I first talk to my manager at the company or to the contract agency?

Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions, Coach Joan.

Yours sincerely,


Dear Clay,

First of all, congratulations on finding employment that you enjoy and a company that is attractive to you for permanent employment! Many people do temporary (temp) and contract work to find a situation they enjoy, and it looks like it’s paid off for you.

So now you have the next challenge of finding out how to transition from a satisfying but limited temp position to a permanent one. And you clearly know there are better and worse ways to do this. In fact, there are people who lose their temp jobs because they don’t manage the process well. So you are smart to ask how to best navigate such a transition.

First off, know that your key allegiance at this point is your temp or contract agency. They are the ones that hired you and they are the ones signing your paycheck. And, they are the ones who are managing the relationship with your employer and, importantly, earning their income from contracting your services to them. So it’s vital that you let them know first that  you are enjoying the work, and the company, and in fact, you would welcome the opportunity to work there permanently if given the opportunity. This opens the discussion to how that might come about. You would not be the first employee looking to go from temp to perm! They will be pleased that they heard from you first. At that point the discussion can go in many different ways.

It is also important for you to realize that many companies choose to have both temporary and permanent employees on an ongoing basis to both keep costs down and to be flexible to expand and contract their workforce as needed. That said, you might find that your current company is not looking to increase their permanent hires in the short term and you might want to consider starting a new job search, specifically for a permanent job but at a similar company to the one you now enjoy.

And let’s continue looking at how you might, however, go from temp to perm. Again, it’s important to first talk to your real, current employer, the contract or temp agency that signs your paycheck.

They might tell you one of the following:

  • “We are only on contract to provide temp employees and have nothing to do with their hiring practices and you are on contract with us”.  But you then could ask them how long the contract period is for and you can check the contract you signed with them. You are not an indentured slave but you did sign a contract. There is typically ’employment at will’ meaning you can leave whenever you’d like and the company can break their contract with you at any point as well. But if you leave the contract with the staffing agency before the contracted period is over, only to apply to the company directly, the company might not be at liberty to hire you as you are considered an employee of the contract agency.   Most companies track how and when they receive resumes and job applications and track the stop and start dates of all employees, temp and perm.
  • “We are on an X number of weeks or months contract with them and at the end of that period you are free to do what you like.”
  • “We have an agreement with the company that if they are interested in hiring one of our temps they need to pay X number of dollars on the contract”, or a certain percentage or whatever their formula is,  based on agreed-upon terms.

Depending on what your contract agency tells you; something in line with the above possibilities (or some variation on the above) you are always at liberty to meet with your manager at the company to just discuss how much you enjoy the work, the environment and to review your contributions and skills, and basically hint at your interest in full-time employment. At that point your manager might fill you in on the company’s plan: perhaps to hire more permanent employees in that group, perhaps to even shrink the team, perhaps something else. But if you are on good terms with your manager, they will often give you a sense of the likelihood of your moving from temp to perm. It is a very common wish of temp employees.

If your contract agency gives you the green light, you can also meet with an HR person at your company and discuss how much you enjoy the position, why and how you’re a good fit and mention that you’d welcome the opportunity to work directly for the company….Again, you might get some good information on hiring prospects.

The other strategy is to get to know employees who’ve gone from temp to perm and ask them how they navigated the process.

Clay, this is a situation you should be careful about and go slowly, step by step, as you don’t want to jeopardize your current situation in being too aggressive for permanent work with the company. Go slow but steady and start with your contract agency.

And, do consider a two prong strategy now that you know what you like in a job. Pursue permanent status at your current job and look for a new permanent job at a similar company.

Best of luck to you and let me know how it goes.

All the best,

Coach Joan

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