Turning any situation into an opportunity takes smart thinking and professional knowledge, so, If you’re in the same situation, then lend an eyeball to this column and join us as we delve into another hard-working, insider-knowledge, plotting and planning Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries, and concerns about the murky world of design.

The Desire for a Staff Position

“Eva” wrote:

Hello, Speider!

I read a story you wrote about recruiters (temp) agents, calling them idiots, and while there are some bad ones, I deal with a very good one who gets me steady work. I am, however, getting tired of hopping from company to company and giving a large percentage of my earnings to the agent. I’d like to be hired on a permanent basis by one of these places, get benefits and hopefully climb the ladder to become a creative director.

There are some hard and fast rules about either being hired from the temp firm (a buyout fee that’s pretty hefty) and a one-year non-compete clause I signed, meaning that I can’t approach any of the clients they send me to for at least a year after I quit the temp firm, which I can’t do because they get me my bulk of freelance work. Do you have any suggestions on how I can turn a great temp assignment into a staff position without having to give a commission to the placement agent?

Thanks a lot in advance!

Sincerely,

“Eva”

Been There—Done That!

Hello, “Eva”!

I’ve done work through a temp agent, although it was considered “contract art direction.” I loved it because it gave me a chance to diversify my portfolio, work on some very high profile clients but most of all, as a contract art director, I was never drawn into the usual “office politics” and “power struggles.” I actually liked moving around from company to company—until I found a great place to work, which I still consider my favorite employer in my career.

It was supposed to be a one-month gig, replacing an art director that was on maternity leave. She extended her leave and they extended my contract. One month turned into two years and eventually they offered me the position of head of creative services. Had I not had plans to move to another city, I would have accepted and they would buy out my contract with the temp firm. That’s what you seem to want, so patience is the key.

The extended stay was due to my talent for the work they did. I also used some easy-to-follow methods for proving my worth to them. Here’s a few tips that will help you achieve the same results:

  1. Work harder than the regular employees. Be the first in and the last to leave. Employers love workers who show dedication and lack of regard to hours worked. When asked why you’re there late, smile and reply, “it’s no big deal. I want to make sure this is the best it can be and not rush a less-than-spectacular solution.”
  2. Make friends with the right people and be visible to the higher-ups. Make them know your name and work. After suggesting an alternative design solution for an important sales pitch, which got the company a multi-million dollar contract with Warner Bros., the company president dropped to one knee and kissed my hand. To this day, he’s an important contact at a different company, as are several former vice presidents.
  3. Don’t wait for a power position—GRAB IT! When you see an opportunity to stand out and show your worth, volunteer to take the lead of the project and make sure the right people know you’re in charge. If it’s successful, you get your hand kissed. If not, well, that’s the gamble—and you can do the corporate thing and blame someone else!
  4. Be first in line when a regular position opens up. As mentioned before, companies like those who have proved they fit in. Remind them you are already trained, proven and known to the company culture and operations.
  5. Have an objection response ready when the question of contract buyout fees arise. Remind the hiring manager (who you should have befriended on day one with the client) that any candidate through a recruiter will come with a commission fee. Suggest they negotiate down the fee as the agent/temp firm has already made a good amount from their weekly commission on your hourly fee. In the meantime, when the agent/temp recruiter contacts you about the company offer, probably saying that they are balking at the fee to buyout your contract, remind them that they have not only made a small fortune off your commissions so far, but by having YOU in place of hiring other contract/temp workers, you will continue working with them, rather than them risking someone else gaining the position and not using their services at all. Money talks!
“Don’t wait for a power position—GRAB IT! When you see an opportunity to stand out and show your worth, volunteer to take the lead of the project and make sure the right people know you’re in charge.”

So, “Eva,” if you follow those tried and true steps, and remain hard-working and patient, you will find you create more opportunities to find and home in on a staff position.

I would, however, weigh the life of being able to work at different firms as an on-site freelancer, being able to enjoy the freedom of traveling when you want, leaving when things get weird, and making contact with people who, when moving to other companies are in positions to hire you for temp work at a higher rate because the agent is cut out of the process vs. the problems of a staff position, the loss of hourly rates and all the office politics you will no-doubt be drawn into.

Addendum

I heard back from “Eva” a few weeks later. She said she was glad I pointed out the different considerations of temp/contract work vs. a staff position, but was working at a great, smaller studio for a contracted period of a couple of months and was already using my suggestions successfully. I hope, when she gets a staff position, she’ll remember my help and hire me for some freelance design work.

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Stock Photos Courtesy of Creative Market