Hired! Freelance to full time

When her job search stalled a number of times, Kelly Russ took matters into her own hands.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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After freelancing for the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, Kelly Russ was offered a full-time job.
If you were a venture capitalist, which field would you invest in this year?
  • Green energy
  • Consumer products
  • IT
  • Financial services
  • Medical technology and pharmaceuticals
  • Nothing; I'd hoard my cash until the economy improves

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With a shortage of full-time job openings, some job seekers are finding that temping or freelancing is the best way to get a foot in the door.

That's how Kelly Russ landed her job. When the employer was skittish about hiring her, she offered her services on one project, and ended up with a full-time position.

"That allowed me to earn some money and they got an example of how I work," says Russ.

Russ, 30, wasn't blind-sided when she got laid off in October from her marketing job at Wyndham timeshares. She'd seen the writing on the wall and had already laid the ground work for another position.

"I wasn't too concerned," she said of the layoff.

But when her new opportunity fell through, that's when she really started to panic. "That was a blow."

Without a Plan B, Russ moved back in with her parents in Orlando, took a part-time job as an educator at Sea World making $10 an hour and hit the job circuit with a vengeance.

Then Russ saw a posting for a position at the Association of Corporate Contributions Professionals, a nonprofit nearby that aids corporations with their giving programs.

The opening was for a public relations coordinator - a step down from what she had been doing, and the pay level was lower too. Despite being overqualified, Russ sent a résumé.

Then, in December, the Association decided to bump up the position to marketing manager and increase the salary. This time they reached out to Russ directly, and she was very interested.

But then came another roadblock. Because of economic conditions, the president of the company told her they had to hold off on hiring plans and her search stalled once again.

Russ wasn't ready to give up on the job just yet. She responded with an offer to freelance temporarily instead. They needed help writing content for program materials for an upcoming conference, which provided Russ with a perfect opportunity to work on a contract basis.

Her proactive approach paid off. After the conference, the organization offered her a full-time job. Russ started on April 6.

Freelance as a foot in the door

Our experts agree that in today's job market, freelancing can be a great stepping stone to a full-time job.

With the economy still struggling, employers are taking a cautious approach to hiring going forward, according to recent data.

Offering to freelance or work on a short-term basis is a strategy that can be applied across industries, our experts said, as companies look to cut costs and do business more efficiently.

"One of the strategies during tough times like this, i.e. when no one is hiring, is to do consulting, contract or freelance work," according to Ford Myers, president of Career Potential, LLC, a Pennsylvania-based career consulting firm and author of the upcoming book, "Get the Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring."

"The best way to get a foot in the door is to do a temporary assignment," agreed Barbara Safani, President of Career Solvers in New York. "And it's good to be proactive," she added.

"She was very smart to throw that offer out there," said Dan King, principal of Career Planning and Management Inc. in Boston. "A lot of employers right now are reluctant to hire because they're not sure they can guarantee long term employment," he explained, "but there's still work to be doing."

But that doesn't mean eager applicants should offer to work for free or on spec, cautioned Myers. "That's a bad idea because it diminishes your value and integrity as a professional," he said. "Your career is not about giving it all away for free."

The goal, our experts said, is to build a relationship with a potential employer, and establish yourself as a positive contributor to the company, which often translates into a job offer.

"The relationships you build are your currency in this job market," King said. In this case, it was really the strength of the relationship that got Russ the job.

"It's like trying dating before moving in together and that's smart," he added.

Read updates on Kelly Russ and the people previously profiled in Hired! Join the Hired! group on Facebook.

Have you found a job recently? We want to hear from you. Send us an email and attach a photo. Tell us where you got hired and how you landed the job and you could be profiled in an upcoming story on CNNMoney.com. For the CNNMoney.com Comment Policy, click here.  To top of page

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