By Codrin Arsene
Taking on a temporary or contingent job may sound scary or less ideal because your employment has a clear expiration date. Guess what: as of last year, 40% of all workers in America have temporary jobs (source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2015/05/25/shocker-40-of-workers-now-have-contingent-jobs-says-u-s-government/#40e837092532). And whereas some may think this is a trend for the worse, in fact, there are various reasons why temporary employment may work better than expected for employees.
1. Some income is better than no income
Let’s say you lost your job recently and you’re looking for a means to pay your bills. Unless you have a secret stash of money that can keep you afloat while searching for a new job, it may be more beneficial to apply for temporary jobs to ensure you can pay your bills on time.
Additionally, whereas some people think that temporary jobs are paid less than full time jobs or that you will be working fewer than 40 hours per week (thus making less money), this is generally not the case. As it happens, 79% of temp workers work full time and make comparable wages to full time employees (source: http://rhmr.mediaroom.com/temporary_work). So if you haven’t had a job is a while and you’re eager to jump back into the work force, don’t rule out temporary employment.
In some industries, temp workers even make substantially more money than full time employees. Why? Because companies are willing to pay a premium to fill in a temporary position which requires a great employee, albeit for a short period of time (usually 3 months to one year). If a company cannot find that person shortly after posting the job description, they are often willing to hike up the hourly rates to get the right candidate.
2. A temp job can become permanent
The reality is simple: finding great people is hard. Too often, as an employer, you get people who know how to interview very well but end up not being a good fit or not delivering quality work when hired. That’s why many companies are shifting to a model where they hire temporary workers (either for three or six months) before deciding whether to take them full time. So if you get a temp job, don’t assume automatically that they will simply boot you at the end of the contract.
Whether a temporary job becomes permanent or not – that’s to a large extent up to you.
Graduating from temporary to permanent is similar to seeking a promotion: you need to work harder than your peers and show how you went above and beyond in your current position. And of course, you need to find ways to make your boss’ job easier.
In my career, every single temporary worker I’ve met who worked hard in their role and got along with the team secured permanent at the company I was working at. Most of them were converted from contingent to permanent workers in the same division. A few were hired in a different department because the role they were previously in really had an expiration date and there was no budget to extend them a full time offer.
The point is simple: no company wants to lose a good employee whether temporary or permanent. So if you really want to stay with a company and you’re willing to put in the effort, temp work can certainly become full time work.
3. With temp work you get to evaluate your employer
As I mentioned above, companies often want to try out the fitness of potential candidates during the first 3 to 6 months by hiring people on a temporary contract. But, of course, this goes both ways. You can also judge whether a company is right for you as an employee. And just as much as you sugar coat your experience during the job interview, so do the hiring managers who highlight the positives and only brush off the negatives for their company.
Temporary employment is a great way to test the waters and see whether you like the company, your co-workers, their policies etc. One time I did contract work for a small firm. They seemed amazing from the outside (this was before glassdoor.com become a thing). But one month in I realized how political and inflexible the company really was. At the end of the three months’ contract the manager wanted to renew my contract for another six months. However, I told him I had different plans for when the contract ended. As such, I will pass on the extension. Even if the reality was that I really did not like the company, the fact that I honored my contract and gave a plausible excuse allowed me to get an honorable exit without burning any bridges. The previous manager even recommended me to another client one year later.
Look at temporary jobs for what they are: an opportunity for you to evaluate a future employer and see whether you like the team, the work and, of course, your boss. Depending on how things go you can decide whether you want to get a permanent role with that company or if you wish to opt out at the end of the contract.
4. Temp jobs offer flexibility and the opportunity to negotiate employment terms
Depending on the industry you’re in, you may find various perks that come with temporary jobs. These can range from choosing the shift you want to work to working from home entirely to only working part time.
As I mentioned above, often times, when a company is hiring for a temporary position, they have an urgent need they need to fill in. It’s temporary because they have a need now. ASAP. That puts applicants for a temporary position in a great bargaining position.
If you interview for the job and the hiring manager really likes you, more often than not, you can negotiate some of the terms of your employment. After all, the employer cares primarily about your ability to get the job done. So whether you need to leave early on Wednesdays because of your volunteering work or you can only work 25 hours a week instead of 40, if your boss really likes you he or she is more likely to agree to your terms.
Why? Since many temporary jobs are driven by upcoming deadlines or by the need to fill in an existing labor gap in a department, your boss would have to keep interviewing people after declining to accommodate your requests. Needless to say, it is easier to work around an employee’s needs and schedule than to keep interviewing and risking to settle for a less gifted employee.
5. Fill in resume gaps & look for a permanent position
It’s no secret that long unemployment gaps on a candidate’s resume are a red flag for future employers. Even if you come up with a good explanation for why you left your previous job, the more you wait between jobs the more suspicion your application will cause. As a manager, I think of long gaps on a resume like I think of a house I want to buy which has been on the market for more than a month: I wonder what’s wrong with it.
Temporary jobs are a great way to avoid having long gaps in your employment record. In many industries having “temp agency” experience is actually considered to be a great advantage on a resume. It signals to the employer that you are able to move from one project to another with ease (thus dealing well with shifting priorities) while working well with various personalities that are different from one company to another.
Moreover, if you simply do not like the uncertainty of a temporary job, no one prevents you from looking for a different opportunity while working as a contingent worker. Future employers will actually look positively on your choice. Why? Because if they ask you why you are looking to switch jobs you can simply tell them it is because you want a full time, stable position instead of the current temporary you are in. Any full time manager can appreciate that answer.
Temporary jobs are not for everyone but as we can see they are growing in popularity. Although some would see contingent jobs as a nuisance and less than ideal, these roles have a variety of advantages as we saw in this article. Make the most with what you got my mom always sad. And temp jobs are not really that bad of a choice if you consider all that we covered above.
Also published on Medium.