The holiday season always brings with it a flood of new jobs. This year, for example, U.S. retailers expect to hire a total of 740,000 seasonal workers. But as the name "seasonal worker" implies, these jobs don't last forever. Come January, many of these temporary employees will be on the hunt again.
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The good news is you don't necessarily have to be one of them, according to Sanjay Sathe, CEO of RiseSmart, which provides outplacement solutions.
"Of course, it depends on the type of the company and the strategy of the company, but [turning a seasonal job into a permanent job] is definitely something people should consider," Sathe says. "I do believe a lot of big companies, without saying it publicly, treat this as a filter mechanism, whereby they bring a lot of folks on board. While doing that, they cherry-pick the right talent [to keep after the season ends]."
If you want to be one of those people, you have to prove to your temporary employer that you have what it takes to create value for the business long after the season ends. Put another way, you have to stand out.
And how do you do that? Sathe has some advice:
1. Get to Know the Big Picture of the Business
Whereas most seasonal employees focus only on the tasks assigned to them, the workers who stand out are the one who try to understand the whole business and how they can contribute to the company's bigger mission and goals. Regardless of whether you're trying to turn a temporary role into a permanent one or simply want to establish yourself as a valuable employee, the best way to differentiate yourself is to do more than just the tasks you were hired to do.
"You could go about doing what you're doing and being the cog in the wheel, but I think you should take a step back and look at the whole machine," Sathe says. "Really try to understand the business and the business model. You'll start thinking differently and acting differently because you know much more than the guys sitting besides you, and that reflects in the work product you come up with."
It can be difficult for brand new employees – especially those hired for temporary roles – to decipher the bigger picture, but Sathe says the best way to start is by simply talking to people.
"Identify the different aspects of the business and go talk to people in each one so you can connect the dots," he explains.
Sathe's other advice is to start from where you are in the company and map out the "concentric circles" surrounding you. Eventually, you'll gain a more comprehensive understanding of the organization.
"For example, let's say you're part of a supply chain," Sathe explains. "You then have the ability to understand what comes before the piece that's in front of you and what happens to the piece after you're done with it. So you can understand the broader picture."
Slowly but surely, Sathe says, these tactics will "add value to the way you look at things and the way you do your work."
The vast majority of jobs are filled through networking, and turning a temp role into a permanent job is no different. If you want to prove your value to your employer, you need to build relationships with the right people and then demonstrate your worth to them.
Sathe suggests requesting a brief networking meeting with one of your higher-ups.
"You could, depending on the company, request a 15-20 minute networking meeting with a potential hiring manager," Sathe says. "If you get it, you should do your homework and really be prepared. Have your pitch ready when you go to the meeting. It should clearly define how you can add value."
3. Go Straight to the Top
Another tactic is to approach leaders and managers directly – but be careful. You don't want to be seen as disrespectful, nor do you want to annoy or irritate anyone.
"This has to be done in a careful and measured way, and it has to be very topical," Sathe says. "For example, let's say I posted a blog or a tweet, or I made some comments in a town hall and somebody shot me an email associated with that comment. Suddenly, you've been given an awareness that wasn't there before."
If you want to get leaders and mangers looking directly at you, you should catch their attention with relevant insights or practical suggestions. Any other way might do more harm than good.
Finally, Sathe's last piece of advice is to remember that it's a two-way street. It's not just about the employer recognizing you in the crowd – it's also about what you can give back to the employer. Keep that in mind, and you'll set yourself up for success.