So you have the job, now the challenge becomes excelling in that engagement so that it not only feeds you and your family in the short term but sets you up for more work going forward. Moving in and out of an organization on a short term assignment presents some different challenges from taking on a traditional job. Knowing what those challenges are can help you plan to respond to them effectively.
Of course, the base line of any contract assignment is completing the task in a high quality manner, ideally in less time and under budget. But, what can you do to help yourself excel at that bottom-line goal?
1. Know your work style. Provide yourself whatever you need to work effectively and efficiently. If you need total quiet to do your work and you are working in a cubicle situation, buy some ear phones and determine how you can manage the expectations of others who may assume that you will be available at any time (e.g., a phone/email message where you say: “I’m sorry I can’t come to the phone right now, I’m doing a task that requires my total concentration. I will pick up messages at ________. If it is an emergency please send me an email with “Emergency” in the subject line. Thanks!”)
2. Communicate effectively with the person who receives your output and generally advises you. Get to know that person’s work style. When are they open to informal conversations? Do they prefer email or conversational updates? How often do they want updates? You can often get this information by observing that person’s work habits and how other workers interact with them. Also, experiment with what most effectively persuades this gatekeeper: Facts? Projected outcomes? Step by step explanations? This can speed decision-making for you.
3. Have a plan for dealing with toxic work situations. Often in such situations you may be the only person focused primarily on the task. Develop ways to gently remind others of the tasks that need to be done without judging their lack of focus. Remember: you will leave at the end of the engagement, while they may feel stuck making the situation even more frustrating for them.
4. Build a support network outside your current engagement — people you can talk to about interpersonal challenges at work and even other work challenges as long as you are not sharing any proprietary information
And for excelling in your future career, think about adding these things to your check list:
5. Ask yourself what this engagement can teach you about the industry and/or your work focus. Articulating learning goals heightens the speed at which you learn and sensitizes you to unexpected learning opportunities.
6. Identify people you would like to add to your personal network. Identify what knowledge and perspective you might provide them that would add value to their work and deliver it.
7. Add extra value to the client organization over and above your assignment. You need to be on schedule and budget before diverting time to this but the extra effort will:
A. Build your visibility and reputation as a contributor.
B. Give you proof that you can take on additional tasks successfully.
C. If it provides you with new work experience it builds your versatility as a worker.
Sally Power, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and personal consultant accelerating successful career transitions.