Singapore's employment rate may continue to be low, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will continue to be easy to find a stable job. Remember, being paid $1,000 a month to clean hawker centre tables is also a legit full-time job.
According to a recent report, more employers are moving towards hiring staff on a contract basis, all in the name of "budget constraints" as usual - that's what they say about saddling one employee with the work of five people, too.
From an employer's point of view, hiring contract staff makes a lot of sense.
You get the benefit of someone working for you for at least 8 or 9 hours a day, but you don't have to give them any benefits like job security, medical coverage or paid leave. Best of all, you get to get rid of them once the contract is over.
Most contract employees don't get any form of benefits whatsoever, whether they be medical insurance, transport allowance or paid medical leave. If you get sick or your entire family died in a fire and you can't turn up for work one day, you simply don't get paid for that day. Often, they get paid less, too.
The main reason companies can't survive on contract staff alone is that no good employee would work for them for long under such conditions. But thanks to the economic downturn, more and more people are going to start accepting these positions.
If you're a contract worker who's worried about how to feed yourself when your contract ends, remember that your end goal is to get converted to full time staff. Even if you don't particularly like the job, it's easier to get a new job when you're already employed than to apply for jobs from a cardboard box at a void deck. Here are some survival tips.
Perform beyond the limits of your job scope
As a contract employee, you are hired to perform a particular role. No matter how well you perform that role, the fact is that the company chose to outsource this role to contract staff rather than get their permanent staff to do it. That says a lot about how indispensable you are.
Just doing what you were hired to do may not be enough to convince the company to convert you to perm staff, especially if the job you're doing now is the finance/engineering/accounting equivalent of screwing caps onto toothpaste tubes.
If you're really keen on getting retained, it's a good idea to go beyond your job scope and contribute to the company in other areas, too. Being able to contribute to your company at a broader level outside your job, on a more strategic level, shows that you understand the business as a whole and shows your value to the organisation, not to the job.
Volunteer to do things you weren't necessarily hired to do, and make connections in other departments. The more links you create between yourself and the company, the harder they'll find it to cut you loose.
Be aware of emerging trends
A company will not hire you based on how useful you are today as a contract worker. They will only retain you if they predict that you'll be useful to them in the future.
And in order to show them how useful you can be in the years to come, you'll need to know what's on the cards for their future, and groom yourself to be able to step in.
For instance, if you're working in a multinational bank's corporate communications department, there's a high chance your company is going to be increasing the number of activities it undertakes in the digital space.
While you might have been hired to create Powerpoint presentations, it's likely than in future, competency in digital media like web and mobile apps is going to be important for people in your department.
As such, you need to make sure the skills you are picking up, whether on the job or externally, will enable you to take on a permanent role in the future, and not just the narrowly-defined contract role you were hired for the first time.
It may be 6 months or a year before you'll be given a perm offer or let go, but when the time comes to make the decision, having the skills to help out as the company grows will put you at a distinct advantage, since these are skills their current staff may not yet have developed.
If you go into ORD-mode and think you're only going to be with the company for a short time, it will show.
While you should never assume you're going to be retained and stop looking around for a new job, if you act as if you're there for the long run while you're at work, your chances of being retained are higher.
This means you bother to go the extra mile, build valuable relationships with the people around you and always try to improve your performance at work. If you "can't be bothered" since you're "only" here for 6 months, that's going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The people who are in a position to hire you will not only be looking at your KPI but also at your attitude at work and whether you would fit into the company.
If you act like a total twat or never do a single thing beyond what you're asked to do, you're not going to be retained by dint of the fact that you managed to perform a little better than the twenty other contract staff doing the exact same thing.
If you were a permanent employee set on climbing the corporate ladder, would you show up to work in flip flops, submit slipshod work, turn up late for meetings or skip work-related functions? If the answer is no, you shouldn't be doing these things as a contract worker, either.
This article first appeared on MoneySmart.sg.
MoneySmart.sg is Singapore’s leading personal finance portal, and aims to help people maximise their money with powerful tools and engaging content.