Contract roles – do they signal a jumpy work history?

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Q: Since 2020, and even before, I have worked in several contract roles.  Many of these roles have been long-term, and several have been with well-known and impressive companies.  My longer-term goal is to secure a full-time role with a company, once my contract roles subside.  Most of the search firms question my background and have a dismissive tone when we begin discussing my contract roles.  Some have used phrases like “job hopper” or “unstable job history.”  Some ask why I couldn’t find a full-time role when the job market has been so strong.  I enjoy contract work and it has given me a lot of flexibility during the pandemic to balance family responsibilities.  Additionally, many of my contract roles are back-to-back and long-term (sometimes lasting more than one year).  How do I ensure that my work history does not look like I am a job hopper?  How can I better present my background and recent experiences?

A: Great question and probably very timely now.  Independent contracting, free lancing and consulting are more common than they were even five-plus years ago.  The pandemic flipped the employment world upside down.  It is not unusual for a professional worker’s employment history to include contract or free-lance roles, especially in some industries.

One alternative to consider is the following format:

XYZ LLC (the name of your consulting business)                2020 – present

  • Pitched….
  • Developed relationships with key influencers….
  • Launched new system…

Experienced independent consultant working closely with a variety of high-profile clients, including ABC Inc., QRS LLC, SSS Inc., and YYY Inc.  Specific areas of expertise include public relations, media relations, web analytics, copy writing, event and tradeshow management.  Projects include:

Using this format, it clearly demonstrates and articulates your areas of expertise.  It also identifies your recognizable client names and describes sample projects, which contribute to your skillset.   Perhaps most importantly, it presents your professional work history in a cohesive manner.  If you don’t have a company name to list at the top, consider using the name that you have used for your independent contracts.  Think about how you invoice, and the name that you have used.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.