Permanent Temp?

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Permanent Temp?

Postby RAS » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:14 pm

Hi all,


I recently left a full time medical writing position for a 2-year contract position due to extreme (I don't use that term lightly) dissatisfaction with my previous employer and a sense of stagnancy, as every day felt the same. Not only was the work repetitive, it was against everything I learned way back in grad school (ie, accurate, objective, rigorous). Papers submitted to clinical journals leaned heavily towards marketing (Marketing department had a hand in drafting manuscripts!). Methods sections felt like brochures (how they got accepted I'll never know). Regulatory materials also used a marketing-type approach (i.e., focus on good results and only mention adverse results in passing).

I stayed on for 4.5 years because the benefits were pretty good and the financial situation at home warranted staying. I was also somewhat trapped because I was limited to remote positions due to limited (read: no) opportunities in my area and did not (and still don't) have the flexibility to move. Now, the financial situation at home is much better (spouse's salary more than tripled) so I was willing to take a bit of a risk but still limited to remote positions, which has heavily reduced my options for positions where I could grow (seems like remote has fewer options for learning new types of skills than in-house). This made me more likely to accept offers that come my way, even if it involves taking a cut in total compensation when you consider paid vacation, 401k matching, and bonus. I recently accepted a contract opportunity that would not only let me escape where I was but would offer training/growth opportunity in a discipline whose demand seems to be increasing. It is also a better environment as far as how the team approaches projects and fits my personality infinitely better, so it wasn't jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Actual question:

If this is a 2 year contract position, how in danger am I of being labeled with the oxymoron "permanent temporary" writer if I've had other temporary positions (last one was contract-to-permanent and had a different short term contract position before that)? Have I limited my future options by being labeled a perm temp or have I opened options by gaining a new skill set whose demand is rising? Breaking even because the 2 cancel each other out?
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Re: Permanent Temp?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Oct 15, 2018 5:27 pm

Hello RAS,

Thanks for the question. It's a good one, and it dovetails into many conversations we've had here about contract workers, and about the whole "temp vs. permanent" topic that seems to affect many people with science backgrounds.

First off, congrats on your success in identifying something that you'll enjoy much more than your previous role. Yes, it's something that should indeed be on your mind . . . in my last column on the topic of "labels" one of the examples I gave was the permanent temp, who couldn't get out of that frame of reference.

But with only two years, you won't suffer that issue. You'll pick up some new skills, perhaps a more rigid protocol with regards to the quality of what you are asked to produce, and make new friends. Two years won't kill you. You'll certainly be able to take up a normal job search and move from there to another full-time, permanent role in medical writing. I would caution you against accepting another 2-year extension after your stint ends, however. At the end of four years, you could legitimately be said to have become a "permanent temp."

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