“They’ve asked me to do this temporarily. I don’t know what temporarily means. Life is temporary.”
~ Bob Schieffer ~
Client Patrick Asks: Does it every make sense to just make a career out of temping? Does this make me look like I can’t hold or don’t want a “real” job—that I lack ambition?
Coach Joel Answers: That depends on your life situation and your personal motivations. For example, if you like the freedom to work when you want and pursue other interests at the same time, temping is ideal. Sometimes temping can give you a higher rate of pay, but it often lacks the benefits and job security of full time employment. You could easily work fewer hours and make more money, so that makes it attractive. And many people like the challenge of getting acquainted with new companies, new people, new responsibilities.
Here are a few more benefits to add into the equation, if you’re considering a long term career as a temp.
- Temping enhances your resume. It shows you have a variety of skills, as well as the ability to fit easily into different environments.
- Temping enhances your network. You’ll meet a lot more people, get to know them and get them to know you through working temporary assignments. Who knows when the guy in the next cubicle can open the door to a whole new career or even introduce you to your future spouse?
- Temping keeps your skill set sharp. You know that sign on the wall at the gym—”Use it or lose it?” The same thing applies to your professional abilities. Often you go into a new assignment wondering how in the world you’ll every figure it out. Then you do, and there’s another win you can tell future employers about.
- Temping can facilitate a major career change. Let’s say you’ve spent your life so far in sales but you see a brighter future in IT. Maybe you’ve taken some courses or gotten some volunteer experience, but you’ve got no track record. If you can land yourself a temporary position, even at an entry-level wage, you’ll start building toward the career you really want.
In today’s economy, temping makes a lot of sense from the employer point of view as well. According to research conducted by Forbes, 36 percent of US companies will hire contract or temporary workers this year, up from 28 percent in 2009, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals. They are maintaining their productivity while reducing their risk. That presents a tremendous opportunity to someone like you. If temping feels like a good place to be, I’d say go for it.
If you think temping may have potential for you, make a list of five action items you could do this week that would get you started down the temporary path.
Talkback: Are you (or have you been) a successful temp? How did you do it? Share your best advice here.
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“It’s having no foresight that makes the temporary unbearable.”
~ A. Lynn ~
Client Renee Asks: I’m currently temping for a company that I absolutely love. I’d really like to work for them full time. How can I get them to consider me for a permanent position?
Client Joel Answers: Sounds like you are on a test drive. Test driving employees is what many companies do to get to know you before they make the investment in bringing you on board permanently. If you are currently temping, the company may be checking you out. Obviously, what each employer looks for during this test drive phase is different. However, if you think you’re on a test drive right now, here are two important questions your prospective employer is trying to answer.
- Can you walk the walk?
A lot of people can give a dynamite interview. They tell the hiring manager exactly what he or she wants to hear, and their resume looks like they have the right skill set. However, as the old saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” If you’re on a test drive, the employer is giving that pudding a taste. If you’re as great as you say you are, chances are you’ll have a good shot at joining the team permanently.
- Do you fit the culture?
Your employer is also test driving some of your more qualitative aspects. How are your personal skills? Do you fit well with the other team members? Do you communicate effectively? Do people like working with you? An interviewer will try to get a feel for these qualities, but really can’t know for sure until you are in place and interacting with your potential co-workers.
Ready to make your mark? There are two questions you need to answer:
- How do I stand out?
- What mistakes should I avoid?
How do I stand out? Standing out as a temp starts with doing the job you were originally hired do to while looking for opportunities to go above and beyond. Don’t just wait to be handed extra projectsor given additional responsibilities. Ask for them! Share with your supervisor and the hiring manager your other areas of expertise.
Also, don’t be afraid to let the company know that you’d love to be brought on full-time. Even if the position you’re currently temping for is truly temporary (filling in for someone who is out on medical leave, for example), look for other open positions where you’d fit well, and talk to the hiring manager about transitioning after your temp assignment is over. Point out the advantages you offer: they know your skills, you know the company, and you’ll save them the time and money of conducting another search.
Most important, be happy to be there. Make your co-workers look forward to seeing you every morning. Socialize if that’s part of the culture—go out for coffee or lunch when you’re invited. Bring a batch of cookies or a box of donuts for the team. There is nothing worse than a temp who comes in and just goes through the motions, ignoring co-workers and acting like they’d rather be anyplace but there. A positive, can-do attitude can make an employer want to keep you around.
What mistakes should I avoid? Obviously, if you come in late, don’t get along with other employees, and complain about the work, the company or being a temp in general, chances are you’re not going to seem like a desirable addition to the team.
And although you may have great ideas about how to do things or improve certain processes, be very careful how and when you share your thoughts. The phrase, “At my old company, we used to. . .” can become like nails on a chalkboard.
Being a temp can provide you with terrific opportunities for full time employment, if that’s what you want. When you start a temp job and you know that permanent employment is your goal, have your strategy in mind from Day One. Look upon every meeting, work assignment, or interaction with other employees as an opportunity to polish your image in the company’s eyes. Visualize yourself as a permanent employee, act like one, and before long—you will be one.
If you are on a test drive of your own right now, make a list of five things you can do in the next week to make yourself a standout to your employer. Start by implementing #1 tomorrow.
Talkback: Have you made a successful transition from temporary to permanent employment? How did you do it? Share your story here.
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