7 Things I’m Learning as I Transition from Contractor to Full-Time Employee

7 Things I'm Learning as I Transition from Contractor to Full-Time Employee


Last November, I started what many would consider my first real “big girl” job. This job also marks the first time I have made an internal transition within a company. I went from working on a part-time contracted basis to a full-time employee.

This is, in many ways, my ideal job. This is not the first transition in my career. With that said, however, being a part-time contractor is very different to being a full-time employee. While I was aware of this on some level, having the firsthand experience of going through this transition has emphasized many things for me, including the following:

7 Things I’m Learning as I Transition from Contractor to Full-Time Employee

There is a Learning Curve for Both Parties

Almost immediately after being onboarded, I encountered a situation that forced me to confront the learning curve that the international team was facing since I transitioned into the full-time role.  I won’t deny that it was certainly advantageous to come into this position with a pre-existing relationship with the company’s international team, but I will say that despite that, perhaps because of it, the learning curve for both parties has certainly been felt.

It is difficult to transition into a new role in any organization, and both sides must acclimate to that change, which takes time. Sometimes that transition takes more time than you would like, but that is where patience comes in.

You will make mistakes as you learn and adapt to the company’s style and expectations; there is no way to avoid them, no matter how good you are. A learning curve is a part of the process of any major transition.

As one of my colleagues said, learning is like a spiral. You do something, and then you learn, and then you do it better the next time. That cycle will continue.

Your Priorities Will (and Should) Change

My people-pleasing tendencies were particularly obvious when I worked for this particular company as a contractor. I didn’t say no when a request came my way. I answered emails even when I knew I shouldn’t be answering emails.

I wanted so badly to produce quality work that I shoved everything to the side when I got requests (sometimes with a 24-hour turnaround) and did it if I could afford to. This system worked for both parties at the time because I was actively job hunting at the time. I didn’t have many other existing commitments.

As a full-time employee, however, things are different. My priorities have shifted. As obvious as it is, I can no longer afford to work in the way that I did when I was independently contracted to this organization.

This shift marks a change in that you are no longer your own entity; you must adapt to what the company is accustomed to, rather than the other way around.

There is Always More to Learn

No matter how much you know, there is more to learn, and it will take time. Yes, the knowledge you have is helpful, but there are also things you will need to unlearn in order to adapt to what the company is accustomed to.

Your supervisors and colleagues will inevitably have more experience than you do; utilize that knowledge. I recently asked to see my supervisor’s editing process for the company newsletter. She graciously walked me through her editing process over Google Meets. Watching her was a great learning experience because I was able to see what she was accustomed to, and how she went about doing certain things.

The learning process doesn’t stop once you leave your formal education behind; if anything, it’s just the beginning. 

Balance is Everything

One of the biggest challenges I have faced working from home is telling myself to stop at 5 o’clock. While my hours are not set from 9 to 5, I am an exempt employee, which means that I have to be careful about how much I work, seeing as I do not get compensated for overtime work.

During my third interview, the CEO of the company asked me what challenges I foresaw and how I thought I would adjust to being an employee after being independently contracted for several years. 

I responded that I was seeking a position that would allow for the structure demanded of a full-time employee and would therefore welcome the transition. I wasn’t lying; after nearly three years, I do welcome the structure of being a full-time employee who is completely committed to one organization.

It has been a learning process for me to tell myself to stop at the end of the day; there is always more to do, and I want to contribute and make a positive impression on my colleagues. On some level however, I also understand that if I do not take care of myself, I can hardly be at my best when I need to be.

Slow Down

Sometimes I feel as though my brain is going a million miles an hour because of the fact that my job never really ends. I am trying to force myself to slow down and ensure that everything is done correctly rather than jumping the gun.

I am writing this because I need to hear it, and writing has always helped solidify concepts in my brain. 

It is better to do things well, even if you have to slow your pace down to do them well. It is understandable that you want to do things well and leave a positive impression on your colleagues but they will not be impressed if you do things messily.

Keep Things Relevant

Your colleagues do not need to know everything about going on in your work life. Keeping things relevant depending on whom you are speaking to ensures that you make the most of both your time and their time.

Discussing your tasks with the relevant teams and individuals you need to speak to will not only ensure that you utilize the time together well, but it may also contribute to a positive impression of you and your work ethic.

With that said, it is important to balance keeping things relevant with building a rapport with your colleagues in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Balancing the two is key.

There Will be Expectations (and You Should Exceed Them)

You were brought onto this team for a reason; there will be expectations based on the things you said during your interview and the recommendations of those who recommended you. It is important that you meet and exceed those expectations that your new colleagues have of you.

Find a way to meet and exceed those expectations they have of you based on how you work best. 

Any transition within your career takes time. Such transitions require time and patience. They will also bring many lessons with them. Celebrate your achievements in making this transition, especially within the current climate.

About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.

Website: alisatanaka.com/