Looking for both solopro and full-time work? Advice for 2009

When you phone a corporate executive about work opportunities, the most important thing is not to sound desperate.

A thinly veiled “I’ll take anything I can get” is the message most likely to yield nothing.

You prepared all your marketing tools—LinkedIn profile, resume, job club handbill, website, blog and more—to present you in the most positive light and highlight your appeal.

In other words, you are a winner.

Resolve now to maintain that stance without wavering.

Some solopro freelancers and consultants believe that they are more desirable than the rest of the pack because they have married themselves till death do they part to their business model. They would never stoop to full-time employment.

They believe this gives them an edge in getting assignments.

I used to believe this too. I believed that I must irrevocably wed myself to freelancing in order to offer my services with authentic conviction.

Demonstrating this devotion doesn’t matter to me now. (Which is kind of curious because I am more certain about self-employment now than I was back when this dilemma absorbed me more deeply.)

Individuals who lost their corporate jobs this year are asking if they should tell a prospective solopro client that they are also looking for a full-time job.

It is eternally true that asking for both makes you less eligible for either.

But today there is a new facet to the issue: You don’t need to express interest in a full-time job because they already know you are open to it.

How do they know?

By looking at your resume or LinkedIn profile. Anyone who has been employed consistently for 20 years and is now unemployed can be assumed to want a full-time job if the right one comes along.

It’s common sense. You don’t need to ask managers about payroll slots.

What if you propose solopro work and then they ask if you are available for a “real” job?

If you are totally committed to self-employment along the lines described above, you may believe you must express this commitment before learning the whole story because of “brand consistency” or whatever.

But here’s my new answer: “I am always open to opportunity. And if this opportunity is not right for me, I may know someone else who can benefit from it. So I’d love to hear more.”

(Anyway, you are itching to know the pay range, aren’t you?)

The current job market is exceedingly temperamental. It’s important to respond to availability questions just right. And it is difficult, if not impossible, to know in advance what “just right” is.

In addition, there doesn’t seem to be much hiring lately. Companies may be open to hiring contract experts, either so they can start a project without committing to a new hire or to try out a good candidate in anticipation of creating a new position sometime in the future.

What’s been your experience? Your comments, please.

Check out what I wrote on this topic several months ago:

Should you ask one person for a freelance and a full-time job at the same time?

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6 responses to “Looking for both solopro and full-time work? Advice for 2009

  1. Diana,

    Very timely, and perceptive – as usual.

    Another potential advantage to approaching prospects for contract work rather than “a job” is that you don’t need to go through the HR filtering process. This may allow more direct access to the decision-making (a.k.a. hiring…) manager.

    There is a recent wrinkle here though. More and more large companies are using Managed Service Providers to handle contracting. They in essence become the “HR filter” function for contract work. However, there are millions of small to mid-sized companies who are not.

    Please keep the great ideas coming!

    Regards,
    Bob

  2. Lisa (lablady)

    Diana,

    Great post. I especially like:

    “I am always open to opportunity. And if this opportunity is not right for me, I may know someone else who can benefit from it. So I’d love to hear more.”

    This is a perfect line! Interested yet not desperate and you’re telling them that you could be of help to them (either as a possible employee or as someone who has a great lead for the position)…win-win statement.

    I have noticed that quite a few people who were laid off from full-time, permanent positions are being hired on a contractual basis (sometimes for more money) but without benefits which is cheaper for companies. So, if you get laid off, don’t forget to re-visit your company to be of use to them as a consultant.

    Other companies may also be open to having you as a part-timer (again, they don’t have to pay for benefits) until you can find a permanent, full-time position. It doesn’t hurt to ask politely and professionally.

  3. Lisa, trying to get back to work at your previous employer is an interesting idea. It may be quite fine if the pay for the contractual job is sufficient to make up for the loss of benefits. However, I’d be wary of going back to a situation in which I may be highly resentful. And if I had reason to be resentful, I suspect the employer wouldn’t want me around the other employees in case my bad attitude rubs off. I guess it’s a complex situation and how it sits with you is pretty important in making a decision!

  4. HR departments appear to be maximizing their power in the organization by grabbing more control rather than by contributing to better personnel decisions. HR has a lousy reputation as a department that job seekers of all types should evade. It’s known for enforcing rigid rules rather than finding the best talent. If I had more reading time I’d love to study how the HR profession sees its role in today’s employment market . . . and if HR professionals want to be more devoted to adding value and being recognized for this value rather than to defending their turf.

  5. Lisa (lablady)

    Briefly, may I suggest following adowling on Twitter? She is an HR person and often blogs about the process of hiring in this economy. I think you’d find your answers through her and her colleagues.

    As far as my mentioning contractual work (as a consultant) to your previous employer; I believe it all depends upon the company, how the letting go of employees was handled. and the persons involved. Obviously, if you feel resentful towards the company and your boss, I don’t believe you’d contact them for temporary consulting work nor do I think they’d be willing to hire you for that under those circumstances.

    However, if being laid-off was handled in such a manner that the company fully involved the employees at every step of the way & everyone realized the company had no choice but to do so – AND was open and honest w/the employees, then that leaves the possibility of contacting them for temporary work open.

    Again, I stress that this consulting work w/a previous employer would be temporary while you are looking for that permanent full-time position which is able to give you benefits. I know of someone who was offered a part-time position at her previous employer until she can get that full-time position with another company! So, it does happen.

    I’ve also read in several instances that certain higher-level people who were laid-off and who have ended up doing consulting work DO get paid a higher amount by the company than was their salary but obviously no benefits. Again, I emphasize that this is temporary work: maybe a 3-6-9 month or even a year contract while you’re looking for the job with benefits.

    My point was/is, it doesn’t hurt to ask ,if you still have a good rapport with your previous employer. Gone are the days of getting a new job within 2 weeks. Landing a permanent full-time job is now taking up to 1-2 years for a lot of people. So, if you can make money w/o benefits while you look for permanent work, I say go for it. You have bills to pay and mouths to feed. At least, ask, you’ve got nothing to lose!

    And, who knows? If they can’t or don’t want to use your services on a consulting basis, ask them to keep you in mind if they know someone who could use them! Begin the networking. 🙂

  6. Lisa, thanks for your informative reply.

    You make a good point about how the layoffs were handled. Most of the layoffs I’ve been hearing about have been handled poorly so I have a predisposition to thinking the worst but I’ll keep an open mind.

    I’ve started following adowling and looked at her blog. Should be interesting. Thanks.

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