Perspectives on the Temporary Job Market for Contract Professionals

Published in CareersConnect, November 2012

By Chuck Bates, C.P.M.

With the current job market continuing its cautiousness, the end of the presidential election, and Congress addressing the issue of sequestration, I believe that now the market for contracts and acquisition professionals will improve. I was recently asked a series of questions about the alternative of temporary contract employment. The following are my responses.

What are the expectations of the employer?
Employers expect fully trained professionals that can start producing, almost immediately. They do not want to be responsible for training, except for company orientation and its procedural methods.

What are assignments like?
Occasionally, the assignment will be to provide contract and subcontract assistance to the proposal team. This effort could be for two weeks, two months, or longer.

The work to be performed might be to backfill someone on a medical, maternity, or special leave of absence. If it is a planned absence, some employers will bring the temporary replacement in several days or a week in advance to understudy with the person vacating the job. At other times, when an employee has left the company on short notice and the employer wants more time to interview candidates, they will backfill the position on a temporary basis. 

Oftentimes, temporary professionals will be brought on to handle increased workload and/or contract closeouts. Occasionally, when an acquisition or merger takes place, the need for contracts to be reviewed and novations prepared requires supplemental contract expertise.

How long are they in duration?
Assignments can vary from a week to a year. If a contracts administrator or manager is needed to assist in the preparation of a proposal, it might last for only 10 days. At times, some companies are able to obtain approval for an out-of-pocket budget amount, but not be able to hire a permanent employee. The amount approved will determine the period of performance. More often than not, assignments tend to be for 60 to 90 days, but assignments are frequently extended beyond the original period. 

What are the benefits and pitfalls?
The benefits of “temping” or “consulting” include a continued source of income and the ability to demonstrate, on your résumé, that you have continued your employment in your profession, albeit on a temporary basis. It also provides insight into how other companies operate. This is especially important if you have been downsized after having worked for a company for a number of years.

If the assignment is a “temp-to-hire” position, and if an opening materializes while you are working there, it allows you to demonstrate your capabilities with management and become a candidate for that opening. Conversely, having had experience “within” the company, you can decide if it is a firm that you would like to continue to work for as a permanent employee if an offer is made. At times, locations that initially seemed prohibitive might now be acceptable after a trial commute.

Candidates accustomed to a full range of benefits from their former employer should be aware that temporary openings are generally hourly positions. A benefit, for those who work or have worked overtime without compensation, will find they “will” be reimbursed for the additional hours worked. Conversely, time-off for holidays, vacation days, or personal time are typically unpaid. Medical and dental plans are not always available, and when they are, they tend to be expensive. Candidates who have spouses with coverage are in the best position. 

There is an additional pitfall that should be considered by those whose goal is a permanent position. Some assignments require you to commit to a period of time, and you must therefore remove yourself from the job market for that period of time. Accepting employment during your temporary contract results in a breach of contract.

What is the going rate per hour?
There is no “standard” rate. Rates are determined by the skills and experience required, factored by the employer’s acceptance of the burdened sell rate. Candidates should expect a rate in the vicinity of what they would be making on an annual basis, perhaps with some uplift for the lack of benefits, and considering the location of the job, out-of-pocket parking expenses, etc. As with much of what we buy, rates are determined by the job market and the laws of supply and demand.


About the Author

Chuck Bates, C.P.M., is the president of Procurement Solutions. He has been an active member of the Tysons Corner Chapter of NCMA since 1993. Since starting his own placement firm in 1995, he has been instrumental in finding employment opportunities for numerous individuals. He can be reached through his website at

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