Recruiting, Talent

Contingent Work Is a Great Way to Reenter the Workforce

Taking time off from a career can create a hurdle for the majority of employees. With 76% of U.S. workers between the ages of 24 and 38 expecting long-term career gaps, a reentry path into the workforce is needed, and contingent work may be the best bet.contingent

While in the past, gaps in employment were considered seriously detrimental to an individual’s career, the 21st-century workplace is humanizing. Employers now recognize that people may require flexible schedules, time off from work, and long-term leave for a variety of legitimate reasons.

Some of these reasons include caretaking for elderly parents or young children—a duty that has long fallen on women and may be the cause for why women tend to leave the workforce. But when the time comes to search for the next chapter of their career, many jobseekers still believe it’s difficult to return to the workforce. They are unaware of options that come with contingent work that could allow them to return to the workforce, learn new skills, or remain in the workforce without having to leave.

My company, Rose International, recently conducted a survey that reveals how perceptions toward contingent work may be shifting. While 77% of the respondents feel that securing a job after a career break may be difficult, 47% of them believe that contingent work can provide solutions to reentering the workforce.

Reskilling, Upskilling, and Flexibility

One of the biggest issues that workers face when reentering the workforce after time off is a skills gap. With automation and machine learning, this problem will continue to increase. Interestingly, 44% of men and 51% of women we surveyed believe that contingent work could give them the opportunity to learn new skills.

As professionals prepare to return to work, they can show prospective employers their self-motivation and competence by taking the time to relearn their industry, increasing their knowledge by upskilling, or learning new capabilities by reskilling. With the need for increased upskilling and reskilling, contingent work could provide opportunities to bridge the gap and allow workers to become knowledgeable in new fields.

In addition to skill building, the flexibility that accompanies contingent work is considered an advantage by 45% of the survey’s respondents. Contingent workers can choose when they plan to take scheduled breaks from the workforce around their contractual assignments. This affords them a flexibility that traditional full-time employment status may not. This flexibility can provide a balance between work and life obligations that can keep these individuals in the workforce.

Mainstreaming the Contingent Workforce

As the fourth Industrial Revolution continues to change work as we know it, I encourage businesses to embrace contingent work as a means to retain workers. Humanizing the hiring process means being willing to work with candidates who have the desired hard and soft skill sets and to find those who are eager to learn and adapt. Skilled workers are in high demand.

Giving workers a pathway back into the workforce to fill workforce demands via contingent work is a way to optimize a business’s hiring pipeline. It can also allow businesses to build a workforce that is highly adaptable and flexible to their needs.

With nearly 50% of businesses worldwide facing a talent shortage, they will need to source skilled workers who can fill gaps in their workforce quickly. By mainstreaming contingent workers, businesses can build robust teams comprising traditional full-time employees alongside contingent workers hired for specific projects.

Businesses can solve the problem of retaining women and men in the workforce who might need to take career gaps due to obligations such as caregiving. By mainstreaming the contingent workforce, it can create a path to reentering the workplace, promote flexibility, and increase workers who are hungry to learn new skills and take on new challenges.

Whatever the reason that led an individual to take time off from his or her career, Total Talent Solutions companies can match workers’ skills to specific job opportunities. Recruiters can assist in getting valuable talent back into the workforce, where they can thrive. Contingent work can be a beneficial path that allows workers to return to their professional lives and provides businesses with the talent they require for success.


—Contingent work is defined as temporary or project-based work, with placement often occurring via a staffing company/agency.

—The survey noted in this article presents the findings of a CARAVAN survey conducted by ENGINE among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,004 adults, comprising 502 men and 502 women 18 years of age and older. This survey was live December 2–4, 2019.

Sue BhatiaSue Bhatia launched staffing company Rose International in the early 1990s. After being told over and over again she would fail, Bhatia and her team were able to grow Rose into a major player in the recruiting and staffing industry. In both 2017 and 2018, Rose hired 10,000 people each year, and 40% of its employees are minorities. For 2019 and 2020, Rose was recognized by Glassdoor with the Employees’ Choice Award for the Best Places to Work.Bhatia believes that working in the contingent workforce brings an understanding of the value of the overall journey because each job opportunity offers a new perspective. The contingent worker has many chances to grow his or her skill sets, and these workers focus more on the overall experiences they’ve had rather than on particular fixed goals.

Connect with Bhatia on Twitter: @SueBhatia_.

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