Penn State’s Challenge … and Contingents?

Rarely does something happen in our society that captures the attention of so many people from so many angles. By now everyone is well aware of the travesty surrounding the participants and victims involved in the Penn State scandal, so I won’t dive into additional details in that regard. My thoughts and prayers remain with those affected.

With the attention on Penn State as an institution, the focus was clearly directed at the football program and the penalties that have now been levied. But what does all this have to do with contingents, you may be asking? I’ll tell you.

Being a contingent employee in certain situations can present unique opportunities to make a positive contribution that may only come around once or twice in a lifetime

In January 2008, when the infamous ECG succumbed to sudden bankruptcy, I had to make some quick decisions on my immediate future because I was suddenly out of work. The calls came in pretty heavy over the next few days from a variety of MSP/VMS firms hoping to bring me on. I have to admit it was very flattering at the time, being asked to step right into another full-time position doing similar work and try to win over the ECG client I supported in the process. For some reason though, this did not appeal to me. I am not sure why, other than I wanted to do something bigger and in some way make up for the bad that had just occurred with ECG. I knew my client, through no fault of its own, would surely suffer if I moved on and took the easy way out. Instead, I chose to become a contingent and convinced a few other talented individuals to become contingents with me. While I did the initial selling to my colleagues, we sold each other on what we could accomplish together. This group of contingent employees pulled off the quickest turnaround of any program that was affected by the ECG bankruptcy. The results that followed have had positive impacts on everyone involved, especially the client.

Most of us don’t work together any longer as a result of our success, but we still talk on a regular basis. A lot of it is still “shop talk” but we always circle back to the amazing work we did as contingent employees and the fact we left it a much better place than we found it.

Back to Penn State. With all the penalties the school and football program are facing, you may wonder why would anyone want to play football at Penn State? There are likely many reasons, such as pride, loyalty, and sense of community just to name a few. At the time of this writing, nine Penn State players have transferred.

But there is something within all of us that wants to take a chance, make things better, seize an opportunity, and leave things better than you found them. And more than fifty players reportedly have committed to staying, with an additional six recruits having reaffirmed their verbal commitment. For the players that have commented, the common theme is having the opportunity to do something very special for not just the football program but for the university and community. For the young men who are undertaking this challenge, I have no doubt that the impact they will have will help define their own legacy.

We all tend to look to the future for the next challenge and in an ideal world it is in the comfort of our own employer. That is not always the case nor does it have to be. If you are at a crossroad and get an opportunity to do something really special, give it a hard look. A special project or assignment as a contingent worker could be just what you need to get you where you want to be.

Not all of us will have an opportunity to take a Penn State type of challenge, but in our own world, a contingent opportunity may be just around the corner if you are so inclined to take the road less traveled.

Gary Campbell

Gary Campbell
Gary Campbell is the principal at Impact2Lead, a leadership development and contingent workforce consultancy, and CEO of Johnson Health Center.

Gary Campbell

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