Temp-ting Career Paths
With the values of stability and tenure becoming increasingly outweighed by the desire for more freedom and flexibility, temporary employment is gaining more ground as a smart career move. Temping, also known as contingency staffing or flex work, has evolved greatly in the last decade.
Individuals who want more free time either for school, R&R, as a parent or even their second vocation see temping as a win-win situation that lets them earn a steady income while affording them the time they want for themselves. Just as many see it as a valuable experience. And for a growing number of people, temping has become a great way for the more prudent and selective to ‘test-drive’ jobs or careers before deciding to make a commitment. Not surprisingly, today’s temps are often educated, intelligent, and continue to gain marketability with each assignment.
“Temping is a major element of employment today,” says David Caster in his article, Temping Pays Permanent Returns. “And those in a job search or career change are wise to consider it as an integral part of their employment strategy. Many have found that temping or working at short- or long-term jobs arranged by a staffing agency has helped them achieve their goals. And, in many cases, it has helped them identify those goals.”
The New Breed of Temps
According to the L.A. Times article Unattached But Looking, temporary positions appeal to a variety of workers including: recent college graduates seeking to get their foot in the door, experienced professionals at career crossroads who are looking for more flexibility, between jobs or considering a career change, and retirees who want more the flexibility or wish to supplement their income.
Temping opportunities have expanded to offer much more in terms of choices, career levels and pay. In her Workforce magazine article, Temps at the Top, author Gretchen Weber discussed the merits of “interim-executive staffing” hiring CEOs, CFOs and CIOs on a temporary basis. While these high-level professionals can command up to $77,000 per month, Weber reported that companies who employ this on-demand strategy can save millions of dollars.
But let’s take a closer at the three temp classes and how and why people in them are using temping to not only satisfy their needs, but also realize their aspirations.
Temping as a Career Test-Drive
Caster observed that many graduates find themselves still undecided about which careers to pursue even after they have earned their degrees. “Temping is becoming a more and more popular option as a first step,” he says. “Done properly, it is a great way to start building an excellent portfolio of skills and experience, while finding your feet and finding the career path you wish to tread.”
Writer Kristi Patrice Carter says temping might have saved her from a career mistake. In her article entitled, Temping -- Friend or Foe? It Depends On You!, she talks about being employed by various temporary agencies during her last year of law school. “I worked for well-known law firms. Throughout it all, I got a taste for what the legal professions really meant. That is, I was allowed to utilize my theoretical knowledge in practical settings. In so doing, I soon realized that I didn’t want to use my law degree in the traditional fashion. I found the field of law too competitive, too rigid, and too incapable of allowing my creative spirit to flow. So, faced with the reality of the situation, I basically decided to pursue another career my first love, writing.”
Now let’s take Kristi’s story and give it another ending...what if, her temp experiences made her decide that she really wanted a career in law? There’s no question that she would have a major advantage over many of her law school classmates due to her head start in accruing valuable skills and experience.
“Temping does give students the exposure and experience they might not be able to have otherwise,” says Sara Allred, Senior Account Executive and Career Consultant at AppleOne’s Tropicana office in Las Vegas. “They come in on assignment, and when the company sees their contribution and potential, there’s a big possibility that they will be hired later on.”
Temping to Stay Sharp or to Transition
Even more seasoned professionals see the value in temping. No longer is temping merely a way for them to earn money after a job loss, and a way for them to remain productive between jobs, particularly since many companies still see larger job gaps on resumes as negatives. In situations like the early 2000s when time between full-time jobs can be indefinite, many recruiters recommended temping as a way to maintain one’s skills as well as stay abreast of changes in office software, for instance.
As with recent graduates, mid-career professionals can take advantage of temping’s, well, temporary nature to, as Carter says, “try on careers for size.” Mark, was an office supervisor who always wanted to open his own restaurant. “My stint in a small upscale restaurant made me realize that it’s a complex operation that you can’t just jump into. It was a rude awakening to realize my dream is still a bit out of reach, but I am glad I didn’t bite off more than I can chew.” A few years later, Marc partnered with an experienced restaurateur and happily takes care of the business side of things.
Another dream fulfilled by temping belongs to Eve Miller, who was a bank manager when she and her husband found out that they were about to have their first child. “We were thrilled,” says Eve. “I knew I would want to spend as much time with him as possible until he can go to school.” Temping’s flexibility gave Eve the perfect balance between spending plenty of time with her son and keeping her career.
In addition to helping professionals ease of out a career into a new one of just take it easy, temping is also a proven way to re-enter the work force. Anne Riley spent eight years in the military before retiring. Still only in her late 30s, she decided to start her life as a civilian by temping at a public library, where she acquired many new skills through software training and day-to-day tasks.
Temping to Stay Active and Supplement Nest Egg
Going back to the subject of flexibility, temping is also becoming an increasingly favorable option for retirees wanting to remain productive and supplement their income. “Sure, they’ve earned their retirement and the time to take it easy,” says Allred. “But retirees now are so different from a generation ago. Now they are more youthful, and would actually get bored or restless if they don’t work. Temping allows them to have the best of both worlds. I have an associate who has retired from two successful careers, but loves to keep busy. She is one of my most reliable temps, but she won’t accept assignments when her grandchildren don’t have school, so I really miss her during summers, spring breaks and during the holidays.”
Empowered by Choice
Temping provides a flexible career and a future rich with options and opportunities. Here are some of the ‘perks’ you can get as a temp worker:
- Work when you’re ready to work and choose your own assignments. Decide when and if you want to work. You also have the final say in what types of projects you want to accept.
- Try careers on for size. Working as a temp allows you to try out your newly acquired skills. In so doing, it enables you to see if your skills and personality fit with the job description and the company philosophy.
- Eliminate boredom and gain marketable skills. Working as a temp is never boring because you perform different duties for different clients. As a result, you rarely stay at the same place for a long period of time. By working with different people, you are able to develop new skills, to improve communication skills, and to truly learn how to be responsible and multitask-oriented. In addition, you make valuable business contacts.
- Earn premium pay and supplement your income. Temping allows you to earn supplemental income and, in many instances, you receive premium pay for your work. For example, temporary legal secretaries make as much as $25 per hour; far less than they’d earn if they worked full time for a law firm.
- Get closer to full-time opportunities, if you want them. By making contacts and doing a really great job, you might be asked to work full-time for or on a permanent basis with the company you have temped with. If not, by working hard, you will still be able to secure a powerful recommendation letter--definitely a plus!