How to keep your eyes on the prize in short-term role

Q: I’ve been offered six months in a company where I would really like to build a long-term career. It is a temporary, short-term role with a September project deadline. Once the project’s over, I’ll be gone. Any tips for how I can make a name for myself and possibly stay on after the six months now that I have my leg in the door? (AR, Email)

A: I often think of short-term positions as being similar to an opposing player getting ten minutes in the ‘sin bin’ in a football match. Its only ten minutes, a very short time in which you can force home your advantage. If you rush it, you could waste the ten minutes, and perhaps it might even be counterproductive.

Figure out what matters

First and foremost, do your job well. Figure out what exactly matters in the build-up to this deadline and how you can best contribute. It is very easy to get drawn into all sorts of activity, but it is much more advantageous, particularly in these circumstances, to identify which elements of that activity are the most important.

Don’t rush into things just because there is work to be done. Talk to your seniors to ascertain – either by them telling you directly or by a process of osmosis – how you can bring the most value over the next six months.

I mention osmosis because sometimes the manager themselves mightn’t even know the best way of using you or of doing things. They can be in deep, struggling to see the woods from the trees. When you take time to think it through, you may develop some ideas that will help the manager to focus on the outcomes as well. They might welcome the strategic outlook you offer.

But I reiterate, do your job, first and foremost.

The best advertisement for your abilities is a solid contribution. Yes, build relationships around the company, but relationships take time, and should never be forced. They emerge through meeting people, be it online or face to face; participating in projects; and just getting to know people socially or through other less formal activities.

Build relationships

It is not a clever idea to prioritise relationships over everything else. This could alienate colleagues who might see you as just a climber and question your output. The most important thing, as I have indicated already, is that after six months those who hired you will say “they did a good job, they helped us to complete that project and I would employ them again”.

That’s not to say you should walk around with your eyes closed. You may hear of other opportunities that might open up after your current project is completed and you would be foolish to ignore them. But wheels turn within wheels in a company, and you can be sure that if you do a good job – sorry, a stellar job – those who appreciate your input will look out for you down the line.

Of course, I would also counsel against putting all your eggs in the one basket. It’d be a good idea to start looking around for other positions after about four months. You want to avoid a scenario where you arrive at the end of September and discover you have no options. Keep a few balls in the air.


Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.


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