The perfect time: how soon is too soon?

Saturday, July 7, 2018 Permalink

I’ve been on a one-year work contract since early October 2017, which means it’s nearing its end. Unfortunately I had to resign from the part-time position I held before so potential unemployment looms with smug menace over me in coming months.

Which is what brings me to the age-old problem contract workers face:

What is the perfect time to start looking for the next gig?

Too soon and it may start before the old position finishes and then you’re in a quandary. After all, no one likes to leave their old colleagues / workplace in the lurch by ditching early (and I’m so loath to do this I’ve even changed overseas holiday plans for my current employer); but also the new employers might not be willing to wait for you to ride out your old contract.

And of course if you wait until the end of the current contract is pretty much nigh, then you run the risk of temporary unemployment. (And if you’re like me and many others as a sole money-earner in your household, there are pesky things like mortgages and bills to be paid.)

the perfect time

It makes sense to build a financial buffer and of course I’m attempting to do this – overseas trip in September aside. But…. I live in a regional area and project management (or similar) positions are limited. Indeed after my seachange, it took years for me to find the part-time gig I had before this project.

All of this is on my mind as a project position was advertised recently. It’s a bit left field so I’m not sure of the match but I’ve applied. (I’ve been keeping an eye out for months and it’s been the only thing that’s appeared.)

As I’m not a subcontractor, it’s not like I offer my skills for short-term gigs / work for myself.

Ideally I guess I’d prefer a permanent position, although part-time would be be ideal. (And yes, I do realise I’m wanting that proverbial cake on a platter and planning on scoffing the bloody lot!)

In my previous government life I worked on project after project. Some 6mths, some 1yr. And one 3mths from memory! But I always had a permanent position I could return to if I needed. Thankfully I only had ‘gaps’ between projects on one or two occasions as it was disruptive to my old work team if I was to return briefly and (in reality) bloody inconsiderate of me.

For me it’s about variety and challenge so I didn’t worry that I wasn’t rising meteorically through the ranks of government – although I was working at a higher level than am now. I liked moving from sector to sector – immersing myself in the temporary world in which I inhabited – before moving on. But like I said, I learned pretty quickly that ‘timing’ the next employment opportunity was all-important.

Of course in the city, with a myriad of government agencies, opportunities and networks that was doable. In regional Queensland with fewer agencies it’s nigh on impossible.

It occurs to me I could attempt to venture (back) into the private project management sector, though it isn’t something I’ve done as a contractor.

I should mention there is a vague glimmer my current role could be extended – funding permitting – and of course I have this new application submitted. But… those who know me know I like to prepare myself for the worst. And no… I don’t think it’s gonna be homelessness, but perhaps just a new challenge.

Have you had to coordinate one job finishing and finding another? Any hints or suggestions?
Should I be thinking only of myself and my future and financial security?

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | And Anyways | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

  • Jo
    July 7, 2018

    I don’t think it’s too early – as you’ve said, these jobs don’t come up often in regional QLD. Fingers crossed though that the funding comes through for an extension.

    • Debbish
      July 8, 2018

      Thanks Jo. I made sure my current boss knew I was applying for last week’s gig as I asked her to be a referee.

  • Kathy Marris
    July 7, 2018

    I think you need to look after number one and that is you! I used to be a very loyal employee when I was in the workforce but really got burnt a couple of times and hence soon dispensed with the “being loyal” attribute. You can certainly start putting the feelers out for a new job with Seek or whoever. I don’t think it would hurt at all.

    • Debbish
      July 8, 2018

      True Kathy and as long as I don’t burn any bridges it should be fine. The job I just applied for is with the same Gov Dept so should be a tad flexible re end dates etc.

  • Jodie
    July 7, 2018

    Gosh…this is such a quandary. I remember when I had first retired, I applied to a couple of jobs for fun. But nothing panned out. Which was quite depressing. Yet maybe it was a good thing, since then I started my blog.
    But being a planner, I hate waiting, so if you ask me….start looking asap!!
    And sending you tons of luck!!

    • Debbish
      July 8, 2018

      I was open to the idea of doing something quite different when I moved here but options were pretty limited. Of course I was coasting along in the job I had before this one but really really mentally unchallenged and couldn’t work out how to make it more interesting, hence applying for my current job. So I’m my own worst enemy… assuming work ‘could’ be something I do just to earn $ but offer little in the way of mental stimulation / challenge etc…

  • Suzy
    July 8, 2018

    I also contract and timing is everything. Generally I take a couple of months break between contracts so that gives me a breather and time to look for a new one. Usual rule of thumb is to start looking 4 weeks in advance of when you want to start working. Most employers are willing to wait for you to ride your contract unless they need someone urgently and paperwork takes at least 2 weeks. All the best with job hunting.

    • Debbish
      July 9, 2018

      Government is probably the only real option for me at the moment Suzy and jobs usually have a couple of months lead-time…. advertise for 2wks, assess for a week or so, interviews, referee checks, then they might make an offer, then internal approvals.

      I’m doing that stuff on the other side at the moment – to staff a project starting in Sept. And if they’re not already employed by Govt there are criminal history checks that can take a few weeks!

  • Sue
    July 10, 2018

    I would so love to find something else right now Deb, but at 55 I’m not convinced that would be a wise move as the likelihood of finding something that would pay the bills quite as well is probably pretty low, and we do depend on my income right now!! So I feel for you in your quandary and hope something comes your way soon that meets all your criteria!!

  • Emma
    July 11, 2018

    This is interesting. When I started working for myself I was lucky enough to get a three month contract and thought more would follow. They didn’t and I did a lot of short term writing gigs. It felt odd and I found myself either beyond busy or with nothing on. I have now got a part time FTC for two years so it’s a bit of a relief. So, in answer to your question, I don’t think it’s too early.

    • Debbish
      July 11, 2018

      Yes, the uncertainty of freelancing for myself just wasn’t an option for me given I was dependent on that income to pay bills etc. I don’t mind the notion of contracts when they’re more formalised!

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    July 11, 2018

    HI Deb! I don’t think it’s too early at all. When you get to the interview stage of the new job you just let them know when your old contract is finishing. At the very least, if that does you out of the job they now know you exist for future opportunities. Remember: It’s not what you know, but who you know. so the more opportunities to meet new people who actually run projects, the better. Even if it doesn’t result in a job right now – it may down the track.

    • Debbish
      July 11, 2018

      Ah yes, I think that’s the case even in government. I suspect what worries me is mentally leaving, or others thinking I have, earlier than planned!

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