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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

December 17, 2016

I’m working on two temp projects while I look for a full time job. I plan to complete both projects during my first few months in my permanent role. When and how should I raise this in an interview?

Julie Q. Brush

If you have committed your time to two project based assignments for two different employers, I strongly recommend that you complete each project before you begin a full time job. No employer on the planet will support a new hire that wants or needs to complete temporary assignment work while on-boarding at his/her company. In addition, asserting such a desire in an interview process will likely create a negative impression of and convey that either you’re not fully prepared for a permanent role or your not committed to this new one. “But what if it’s just a couple hours a day on my own time?” you might ask. While what you do on your off the clock time is entirely up to you, this type of activity may be prohibited as a matter or policy (conflict or not) by your prospective employer. Even if not, you can bet that it will be frowned upon. So any way you slice it, the outcome won’t be good for you.

With this said, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for a job during this time (if you have the bandwidth), but it does mean that you should delay any start date until your contract commitments have been fulfilled.

If you insist on pursuing this course of action, the time to raise this issue is early in the interview process (first or second interview). While it will be tempting to raise it late in the game or at the offer stage (once they’ve fallen in love with you), resist the temptation. What you are proposing is material and employers should be presented with this information upfront so they can determine whether your candidacy is viable. Everyone’s time is precious, so be transparent with this information sooner rather than later. As for what to say, be honest and clear; and provide a compelling reason. Below is an example:


“Jennifer, it’s been nice meeting you. Do you have any questions about the opportunity or the company/firm?”


“It’s been great meeting you as well. I’m very excited about this opportunity and the group. I do have one question that I’d like to discuss. I’m currently at the tail end of two projects that I’ve committed to completing. Would the company support my concluding those projects during the beginning of employment? I believe it’s important to follow through on what I’ve promised and with the work winding down, it wouldn’t be much time, maybe a few weeks, and wouldn’t infringe on the workday. Is this something you’d be open to?

You are making the most of your current career chapter and taking on legal projects to stay fresh and busy. But asking to continue on in those endeavors while you begin a new permanent job will produce a disappointing answer and potentially negative reaction. If you’re set on inquiring anyway, use the narrative above to guide you, but manage expectations accordingly. My recommendation instead is to complete your projects (or get much closer to the finish line) so you can focus completely and wholeheartedly on the new longer-term role that lies ahead.

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