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I have very recently experienced a rather uncomfortable situation.

Here is a quick recap of the events:

Early last year I got an offer for a pre-employment (not sure if this is the correct term) while I already had a job. The idea was that I would start off as an employee of company A and work as a consultant for company B for 6 months. Company B would then offer me a position if we got along professionally.

I was at the time looking for new opportunities and the process seemed very interesting to me, especially since I would have the safety net of my employment at company A.

The hiring process started with a recruiter (let's call him Bob) from company A and a manager (Jon) from company B.

Fast forward to my first day. I arrive at company B and get greeted by manager Dan who replaces Jon.

Due to Covid and remote work, my start is complicated, especially because the colleague I was supposed to assist left the company just before my arrival.

Because everything seems really slow to me I requested a meeting with Dan at the end of the first month so that I would have a better vision of what I have to do, the tools and systems I have to work on and so I could get help from the rest of the team to learn about the job.

As nothing much changes I'm getting worried as I learn close to nothing, I reiterate my meeting with Dan at the end of the second month. Dan then proceeds to explain to me the pre-employment isn't something that happens company B (so what I was promised wasn't possible to start with) but he'll try to find a way for me to get hired.

A few weeks later, Dan announces to me that Covid induced massive budget cuts and that he can't offer me a job in the team because of that. At that time, I have around 3 months left at company B as a consultant. Dan also explains that because my other colleagues are overworked he can't task any of them with teaching me stuff.

As a result, I mostly trained in programming and did a bit of code punctually here and there at the request of Dan but nothing exciting or stimulating.

I ended up leaving company A shortly after my mission at B was finished.

My feeling is I've wasted a bit over 6 months with a job that didn't make me grow as a relatively junior dev/ops.


In this story, I blame Jon for having promised me a job while knowing he wouldn't be my manager and Bob for not having checked that Jon's promise was actually worth something. Dan was in my opinion very professional and did everything he could so I could stay at company B. He also didn’t hide things from me which in my book is good.


Now here is my question: was I wrong to expect the pre-employment to actually happen?

As a side question, what is the right thing to do when one’s manager doesn’t give one things to do (tasks, work…) even after requesting something be done about it? In my case, should I have acted differently?

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    Hey, if you got paid for those 6 months then you did not waste time. You will have another bullet point in your resume, and some experience about real world.
    – rs.29
    Dec 20, 2021 at 23:32

6 Answers 6

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What you have experienced looks very much like a "contract-to-hire" (CTH or C2H) arrangement. Company A is a contracting agency (a "body shop") that actually hires you then rents you out to their client company B. Conceivably there may be a situation where B really want you to work for them in the long run and use the CTH to serve as a probationary period for you while reducing their risks and expenses in case it doesn't work out. However, in the majority of cases the CTH is just a carrot designed to attract higher quality employees, who might be interested in working at B, to company A instead. After the contract term expires, B doesn't need you anymore, and A rents you out to company C (or dumps you, if C does not exist).

"Contract-to-hire" is not a legal term. It's just a marketing phrase intended to create an illusion that the job is somehow better than a simple temporary contract, which it isn't. The benefactor of your work (B) has absolutely no obligation to even consider hiring you once the contract term is over, while the entity you actually have a contract with, A, has every incentive to not let B hire you, lest they lose a (presumably) valuable employee and an income stream from their client.

You feel like you have wasted your time because you may have misunderstood the intent of the parties involved.

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  • Yes, but just wondering if this kind of arrangement happens in France (question is tagged france) ...? Also, sometimes the CTH company does want you but you're unable to come to an agreement with them - e.g., they might not pay what you want. Because you never really talked about that with them in the beginning. Now ... you've spent the 5-6 months, have not much to show on your resume, and may very well feel pressure to accept what they're offering instead of moving on. It can be a trap if you didn't go into it with awareness ...
    – davidbak
    Dec 17, 2021 at 21:02
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This is how life goes: Company B said that they'd have a job for you after 6 months but they didn't. Whether this is because of them being dishonest or really just because of circumstances doesn't really mater.

If you got that agreement written down (that company B would take you over after six months), then you MIGHT be able to do something about it... But would you really want to sue them for a job and then work for them after you won? I don't think so...

Of course you see that 6 months as "wasted time" and perhaps it is, but this is the normal way that jobs go:

You like them, you grow, you learn something or you don't. You really don't know before because everything that is promised in the hiring process could be totally made up just to make you sign.

Don't be afraid: Most time it isn't...

Have you been wrong expecting the employment to happen: No, probably not. This is what would normally have happened. Things didn't go like expected... Next time they hopefully will...

And if you want to make sure, that it works the way you want: Get everything written and signed, then the probability afterwards is even higher.

Now to your question "what could I have done differently": As soon as you realized that there was not much to do for you you did the right thing: you talked to your manager about it.

As he did not give you work after that talks that could have been the alarm sign for you: No work today most probably means: no work after 6 months... You could have instantly started to look for a new job and in the meantime: Take whatever you get to improve your skills.

That could have reduced your "wasted time" a bit.

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  • You could have instantly started to look for a new job yup, that's what I did and only stayed at company A for a total of 8 months. My main problem was getting some sort of lesson out of this, there has to be something positive about this experience, right?
    – z3r0
    Dec 17, 2021 at 13:38
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Now here is my question: was I wrong to expect the pre-employment to actually happen?

No, you weren't wrong; that's what was discussed and agreed.

However, things change. This is something we have to live with and to deal with.

My feeling is I've wasted a bit over 6 months with a job that didn't make me grow as a relatively junior dev/ops

Only 6 months. You didn't lose a ton of cash, and you got paid for it. Think of it as a really inexpensive life lesson.

As a side question, what is the right thing to do when one’s manager doesn’t give one things to do (tasks, work…) even after requesting something be done about it? In my case, should I have acted differently?

Look for things to do. Processes to improve. Failing that online courses and start looking for a new job. The more dishonest of our colleagues would look for a second or third fully remote job while getting paid to do nothing at job #1 (to be clear, I'm not suggesting you should, merely that it's possible).

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You were offered a position that is called contract to hire.

I was at the time looking for new opportunities and the process seemed very interesting to me, especially since I would have the safety net of my employment at company A.

In many cases company A will not have another position for you if the contract with company B ends without you being hired. Sometimes B extends the contract. Sometimes you get lucky and Company A has another customer that needs somebody with your skills.

Many times company A will say they will cover you for 40 or 80 hours while putting you on another contract, but many times they don't offer any coverage.

So why did Company B do this?:

  • If you are great and the work is permanent they will hire you.
  • If the position isn't permanent they can get rid of you either at the end of six months, or even sooner depending in the wording in the contract between A and B.
  • If you aren't great but the needs still exists, at the end they will tell company A or some other company similar to A to find somebody else.

Company B then doesn't have to go through the pain of firing somebody if things don't workout.

was I wrong to expect the pre-employment to actually happen?

You have to go into these types of situations expecting that the job is short term, and won't result in a permanent position. At best you had a six month audition, at worst you had a position that would always end in 6 months. The words from company A and Company B about the chances the role is permanent doesn't mean anything.

The advice is always to keep looking and applying all the way to you when you start a new position, just in case things fall through. In your case you never should have stopped looking, the position was never permanent.

As a side question, what is the right thing to do when one’s manager doesn’t give one things to do (tasks, work…) even after requesting something be done about it? In my case, should I have acted differently?

When on an audition always try and make yourself invaluable. Everyday is spent doing what you are asked, and showing that you can contribute in ways they never anticipated. Volunteer to do things. And keep looking for other jobs.

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Okay, the others have explained contract-to-hire. Valuable information.

You haven't wasted any time. Look at this from a different side:

  1. First and foremost, it seems that you showed up every day and they paid you as agreed. There are LOTS of people who take jobs where this doesn't happen consistently. Bystanders with limited life experience would say, "well, why don't they just quit?" and the answer is sometimes complicated. Be thankful that this isn't you.
  2. This situation didn't work out as desired, but you're one step closer to something desirable.
  3. You now understand one more nuance of the industry you're working in, and they don't teach this stuff on college campuses. Contract-to-hire work situations are very common. Often, companies set out on new IT projects and if internal staff can't make desirable deadlines, they hire contractors and partition out the work. As a project finishes, the company may choose to retain a few of the contractors to stay around for operations and maintenance, but they don't necessarily need to keep the rest. The company enjoys a much cleaner accounting and finance situation by not hiring these people as employees, even though the labor is paid for at a premium.
  4. You might need to pivot to a CTH job someday, and now you know what you're dealing with.
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    Contractor/consultant roles are getting more and more common these days. In my opinion, people who have a positive attitude, are constantly willing to learn and keep their cool even if things don't go as planned are the ones who will always have work in the future -- whether as an employee or a contractor. Attitude really matters; treat everything you encounter as a lesson and you're never wasting time. If there's nothing to do and you're still being paid, use the time to self-learn. Dec 17, 2021 at 23:51
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Now here is my question: was I wrong to expect the pre-employment to actually happen?

You were not wrong to expect employment, but, IMHO, did not do enough for that to happen.

Especially when you found out that stakeholders (employees, managers) you were suppose to interact, left. Leaving you in sort of limbo to "coast" for the rest of the contract.

I think B expected from you to be proactive in getting onboard and learning the ropes of the job and what team do as much as possible on your own.

That would have helped you to "carve" yourself a place on the team and in the company even with Covid and all the budget things. Not everyone can do that, i grant you.

Usually it depends on how excited you are to work for that particular employer and what you are willing to do to keep the position you are in :)

I don`t usually like to be that blunt, but this is how i see the situation

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  • If someone is expected to "carve" out a spot for themselves when starting a new job as a contractor, then management is not doing their job. There's only so much a "new guy" can do to learn from scratch without any training. And if you start asking all the questions you need to get started, you end up being considered an annoyance, not a "go getter". Been there, done that. Besides, you don't want to be in a company with a lazy manager that doesn't support their staff. Dec 17, 2021 at 21:26
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    @computercarguy in ideal situation, when all is going as planned, you are right. But in this case all went south, and in this case, especially in larger organization, person need to be a bit more proactive in order to show that he worth the effort of transitioning. passive person is not.
    – Strader
    Dec 18, 2021 at 5:32
  • In this situation, even a proactive person wouldn't have been hired. Been there, done that. There's literally no way to talk an employer into hiring you or proving you belong there when they can't or won't hire anyone. Simple as that, unfortunately. There's no "let me rearrange the budget" option. If they haven't already tried that, you don't want to work for that person anyway. And not many managers are going to fire someone to bring in a contractor, unless that someone really needs to be fired. That still wouldn't likely have any direct impact by the contractor being proactive. Dec 20, 2021 at 16:15

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