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Contract work can be rewarding

Contract work may not appeal to everyone, but it does offer some attractive advantages for those willing to take responsibility for their personal career development.

According to Eunice Ng, director at Avanza Consulting Pacific, people who work on contract usually fall into one of two categories - those looking for more work-life balance, and those positioning themselves for a permanent role down the road.

For the former, Ng highlights the need to keep skills up-to-date and make sure that industry-knowledge remains relevant at all times. As for those in search of a permanent role, she recommends focusing on acquiring the hard skills needed for future positions.

When it comes to job interviews, Ng says candidates should be able to clearly articulate why they took up each assignment as "employers need to know that they are serious about committing to a permanent post."

These explanations - which can be centred around a particular skill set, industry, or even a particular language or market - have to also be communicated via the résumés and cover letters, Ng adds.

Olly Arthey, a former broker with JPMorgan who has also been responsible for hiring contract staff, believes contract work provides individuals with an opportunity to strengthen their employability as they gain insights into different company cultures, processes, operations and structures.

Arthey says contract work is suited to those who are proactive.

"In essence, contract work means more money, greater flexibility, increased freedom, wider skill development and the chance to be viewed in a different light by a potential future employer," he says.

"Contract workers have to be able to deal with a limited level of job security," Arthey adds, noting that these types must also take responsibility for their own career development, medical costs, and Mandatory Provident Fund payments.

Sommer Owens, Hong Kong's manager for contracts at Robert Walters, believes that one of the key advantages for those pursuing limited assignments is that most firms are more flexible in terms of their candidate requirements.

"Finding a job at a top-tier investment bank, for example, is far easier for those willing to work on a contract," she says. "Once a candidate has acquired that experience, doors eventually start to open up."

Another advantage Owens cites is the possibility of a full-time posting at the end of a contract. But this, she says, typically only happens when a specific role was created for a person - roles that would not have otherwise been introduced, were it not for their being contracted out initially.

According to Owens, the feedback from contractors indicates that many are also particularly appreciative of not having to be concerned with office politics. "They can focus on the work rather than climbing the corporate ladder," she says.