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Career strategies for short term contracts

Related to the PU section but with a particular focus on what would still work in this situation so I thought best to post here. I want to check-in and make sure I ve understood the basics and not missed any secret sauce .


  • Tenure - when u have a walk on part hard to drive action  as perms know they can outlast you.  People may not be interested in alliances with  bungee managers
  • Staff position  most times I m IT in a non IT business.
  • Lack of positional power.  The perm managers are just about always trying to limit your resources , visibility and exec access while still leaving you with accountability for thankless or risky work
  • Limited time to assess the landscape before acting

I understand long term the best answer may be change horses and go perm.  In that scenario  I wouldn't have the constraints and the long game (alliances, mentors etc.) would work.


  • As per Johns advice focus on mastery, service and relationships. Aligns with PU which says hard work with some political awareness is best.
  • Build portable skills and contacts as company is likely to treat you as like disposable gloves

I think this is wise as on a short term contract you need a real sense of urgency to deliver.  And there's always some specialist project domain  knowledge I have to learn.

Portable resources (by priority)

  • Presentation  and narrative
  • Network
  • Craft skills (IT and project technical)

Social power skills

  • First impressions
  • Voice and delivery
  • Frame control
  • Default responses to challenges, manipulations and attacks

Correct priorities?  Have I missed anything?  One area I m unclear on is how to turn your boss into a mentor when you re temp and they may be unwilling to invest .





selffriend has reacted to this post.

This sounds tough.
Thanks for sharing these potential takeaways because I face these issues myself on one-time contracts as well though not in IT.
I have a friend who works in managed IT services in London.
The experiences he shares are more similar to what you share.

Would it be possible to frame yourself as

  1. a potential, repeat project manager for the same company
  2. an expert in industry and company processes like how the Big 3 management consultants portray their image (even they do not know in-depth sometimes)

Staff position  most times I'm IT in a non IT business.

Would it be challenging to draw more attention to how IT plays a critical role in non IT business?

This only applies if you are working in a larger company.
I am wondering if the marketing department of your company can help with educating clients more on the importance of IT.
Or customer success.

Maybe it could an issue with the salespeople over-promising what can be delivered for these clients in a short period of time.
Sometimes lack of communication between sales and project/operations causes this disparity when working with clients.

In Power University of the module
Strategic Self-Promotion For Career Advancement,
IT seems to fall under high importance, low visibility.

I think the strategy would differ depending on whether

  1. You are freelancing
  2. You are an IT consultant at a company who services clients

One area I m unclear on is how to turn your boss into a mentor when you re temp and they may be unwilling to invest .

This seems tough if long-term interests don't align.
Maybe possible if you spend more time doing IT in a single industry.

Keen to hear what others think.

Transitioned and selffriend have reacted to this post.

Message redacted upon user's request

I don't normally take short term contracts the works typically shit for all the reasons I listed.  There r some positives:

  • it's a good day rate Will leave me better funded for job hunting next year if that's what it comes down to
  • This is my second stint for this government dept which looks good on resumé
  • Got me through that dangerous Xmas period
  • I've done a few project manager jobs in a row. There's always more business analyst jobs than project manager.  This Freshens up that analyst side of my resume while still a manager position.

Of course now I ll be looking for a longer term gig.

But with the way things are there may be more short term contracts in my future.  So trying to develop that internal locus of control and deliver value whenever I happen to be.  I.e.  move towards not away from.

Matthew Whitewood and selffriend have reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewoodselffriend

Hello Transitioned,

to understand better the situation, I have 1 question: how passionate are you about your job?

Passionate about adding value and showing up as a professional.  The work is quite worthy its a large  public safety initiative.  I ve set aside a week of my holidays for studying  the work content which has some opportunity cost so I guess if not passionate definitely committed.  I ve 10 years experience  as a business  analyst so I understand  the pivotal role they have in projects.  Of course I m a flight risk just like everyone  anyone else who s on 4month contract.  The prog director was a bit cheap there.  6 months min is normal  etiquette  for manager gigs.

Passionate about adding value and showing up as a professional.

With all due respect, this is a general statement. I honour you for it, though, as this is very important and hard to do. However it does not answer my question. How passionate would you say you are about your work please?

What are you committed towards?

I cannot see clearly your situation at the moment. I need your help.

Message deleted upon user's request

selffriend has reacted to this post.