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Job Hunting, Job Search Tips

Is Temporary Work The Way To Go?

Manpower office in Saumur, France.

Image via Wikipedia

A flier for an upcoming US Census interview session just came to my inbox. They are locally recruiting for field representatives. I immediately sent it out to my clients, and I know several of them will seriously consider attending. Many others will not—they are holding out for permanent positions.

I remember when I was in college, looking for work. I registered with a local temp agency and took jobs here and there for the next couple of months. Being a teenager and a little Attention Deficit I found the frequent change of assignment and environment challenging and fun.

I have to admit that when I hear the term “temporary employment” I think of that experience. So do many of my jobseekers. But temporary employment has grown and diversified since then, especially in the wake of our current economic and unemployment situation. Much of its former stigma, however, still remains.

It is no surprise that employers have jumped on the temporary job bandwagon with a vengeance. A recent survey of 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals show that 36% of companies will hire temporary workers in 2012, up from 28% three years ago. Historically employers have used staffing agencies to get immediate help for a short term period with little commitment. These days, employers have had to make do with less, including less payroll, and look for creative means to get work done. Temporary employment in this context generally means not having to pay sick or vacation leave, medical benefits or retirement. They can hire for a specific time period or project, and when that project is finished, so is the employment. Many employers have had to eliminate their HR staff and they use staffing agencies as outsourced human resource offices, recruiting, screening and hiring employees for them. Employers could save a lot of money and headache this way.

Even government agencies derive benefit from hiring temporary or project employees. My agency uses temporary or project employment to bring on workers in the short term when permanent positions are not in their budgets. Many mandatory recruiting practices used to hire governmental employees do not apply to temporary employment, allowing for fast hiring when needed, avoiding the tedium and time delays.

Jobseekers can derive value from temporary employment as well, but the value to employees is mixed. While jobseekers can generally find temporary jobs to be more plentiful, fill in the job gaps on resumes and be an impetus to get out of bed in the morning, they certainly don’t contribute to a worker’s sense of job security. These days, however, job security seems to be something of an oxymoron anyway.

Few temporary or contract positions come with traditional benefits such as paid leave or medical insurance. I have found a couple of reputable staffing agencies that do pay benefits to their temporary workers, but that is still the exception to the rule. Workers on temporary assignment with a company might receive different pay—and possibly different treatment—from permanent workers. And temporary employment may have another interesting drawback: jobseekers seeking permanent employment might get complacent in their job search when they get a temporary assignment. If the assignment is fulltime, workers may not even have time to carry out an effective job search. Job opportunities that come along during that time might be missed, and the momentum gained during a diligent job search could easily dwindle.

On the other hand, temporary employment does keep a worker’s skills sharp and up to date, and can expand their skill set. For those who are looking to change careers, temporary employment might allow the opportunity to “test the waters” of a new career. But probably the biggest advantage of temporary employment for jobseekers is that temporary employment can often lead to permanent positions. I offer myself as an example of this.

I applied for a permanent position with the State of Washington as a WorkSource employment specialist. While I wasn’t chosen for the position, I was offered employment in a 90-day non-perm position, which I accepted. Unemployment was spiking at the time and our one-stops were in desperate need of help. The only way they could get the help they needed rapidly was to open these short-term positions. I had no problem taking one.

This was when stimulus money was being distributed to assist in getting jobseekers back to work. A certain number of ARRA employment specialist positions opened and I applied. They needed people with experience doing what I was currently doing, as they were 2-year project positions and people needed to hit the ground running. I got the job, and in turn the experience I accrued made me an ideal candidate for the next permanent position that came open. I have now worked for the state for nearly 3 years—all from a 3 month assignment!

Temporary employment assignments can be as diverse in nature as their permanent counterparts, and the decision to accept a temporary position in lieu of permanent employment is highly individual. When making the decision, however, jobseekers would do well to understand the nature of the assignment and who is issuing the paycheck. If it is a temporary staffing agency, is it a reputable one you can trust?

Do a little research on the agency. Google them online. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been registered against the company. Also look for such things as how long they’ve been in business, employers they work with, and number and type of jobs available. Also, be cautious if they ask you for money. Generally employers pay staffing agencies, not jobseekers.


About kimberlyjmyers

I am a workforce development professional in Washington State. I have ten years experience working with dislocated workers, vocationally impaired, and people with disabilities on many levels and backgrounds from offenders to non-English speaking refugees from around the world. The One thing the clients I have worked with all had in common: there was some barrier to employment, and I work diligently every day to identify, address and remove those barriers.


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