When talking to people professionally, the second question I'm often asked is either:
- "who is your employer?" or
- "who do you work for?"
I am in a difficult position when I need to reply because:
I have worked for 2 years at a company named X. I am not an employee of X but as far as the pure work aspect is concerned, it's as if I were because I work all day with company X's employees, depend on company's X management and take orders almost exclusively from them.
My job contract is held by company Y which has another contract with company Z. Company Z has another contract with company X.
Contract hierarchy summary in short: Y is a subcontractor of Z which is in turn a subcontractor of X.
Day to day operations: I work all day at company X offices with company X's employees and at company X's customers offices.
Now you can sense my problem when replying. If I am answering question 1 I feel I should say company Y, while if question 2 is asked I think saying company X might be more appropriate.
I wouldn't generally bother with these details, but X is much more famous worldwide than Y and if I reply X I typically avoid having to explain the "complex" contract relationship which is a natural follow up question that ends up leaving more confusion than anything in the mind of the person I'm speaking with. Saying "I work for company X" generally satisfies the question and does not need any follow up.
In short my question is: can I say/reply "I work for company X" in a professional environment even if I am not specifically an employee of company X?
To be clear: I always clarify, if the need arises, that I am not an employee of X and do not represent X in any way. This is a question related only to, say, speaking at a networking event where you typically wouldn't dive into the details of various contracts.