The drawbacks of a temporary job may make you contemplate taking one or reject the idea all together. But with a recovering economy, accepting a short-term position may be the best option for ending your stay among the unemployed.
And you would hardly be alone. Since the recession ended in June 2009, temporary jobs have comprised about 19 percent of all new jobs. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures released this month, the number of temporarily employed workers in April was 2.66 million, up from 2.48 million at the same time last year.
"Companies look at employing contract workers for a number of reasons," says Janette Marx, senior vice president at Adecco Staffing, a worldwide employment agency. She notes that the speed of hiring, flexibility in scaling the number of employees to fit company needs and giving candidates a trial period before bringing them on permanently are all positives from the perspective of the employer.
But from the vantage point of the prospective employee, the benefits of a job that doesn't guarantee an end to unemployment may seem valueless. While the job offer on the table may only last for a short stretch, here are some reasons to seriously consider it.
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1. Temporary work isn't so temporary. While the recession and subsequent slow-growth period that followed created legions of temporary jobs, the length of temporary jobs has increased significantly.
"Most temporary work used to be temporary by the day or week, and now a lot of the temporary work is contract in nature where people will get three, four, six month contracts," says Daniel Feldman, associate dean for academic affairs and synovus chair of servant leadership at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business.
2. Psychological perks. If you've been unemployed for months and are down to your last dollar, a temporary job, even if it's not linear with your career path, can break the cycle of restlessness and hopelessness you may be feeling.
"There are enormous psychological benefits of having any employment compared to unemployment even if it's not ideal," says Feldman, noting that a job gives structure and meaning to your life.
3. Universally beneficial. Regardless of your station in life, temporary work can serve you well. As a newly minted high school or college graduate, it can provide the hands-on experience you never had as a student, Feldman says. For those simply out of work, a temporary job can get people out of the house and instill a new sense of hope for returning to the labor force, he adds.
4. "A" job is better than "no" job. While the temporary gig may be wholly unrelated to your work history, it beats unemployment and having a résumé blanketed with long gaps in between jobs. "Even if the employment is not exactly what you want, it has some value in terms of the labor market," Feldman says.
5. Temporary could become permanent. With an impressive work ethic and charming personality, you can make yourself indispensable. To reach that status, you must treat every day like an audition and put your "best foot forward," Marx says. Arriving early, staying late when needed, taking on additional responsibility and fulfilling the goals of the role you're filling to the betterment of the department and company are all ways to grab the attention of your employer, she adds.
6. Carry on with your career path. Partnering with an employment agency that specializes in your particular line of work can ensure your temporary stint is relevant to your past experiences. Feldman suggests choosing contract work wisely to make sure you are in the same industry you want to be in.
7. Shed light on what's next. For those lacking a firm idea of where they're heading, dabbling in a temporary assignment or two could help you "find the next step in your career," Marx says.
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8. Pick up new skills. View the job, particularly if it's not related to your past professional life, as a means to extend your know-how and experiment with a new field. "A number of people will use temporary work to help them develop new skills or open the door to a new industry they haven't been in before," Marx says.
Khalid Hart, a temporary worker turned full-time employee who used Adecco's services, wrote in an email that working in the manufacturing and telecommunications field built upon pre-existing skills. "I had a solid understanding of troubleshooting systems prior to my temporary employment, but this environment I was now working in really expanded my skills," he writes.
9. Expand your contacts. The employer you're working for may not have an opening when the stint ends, but if you made personal and professional inroads during your time there, you may leave with solid references, Marx says.
"Those connections as you continue to network [will] help lead you to that right long-term position," she adds.
10. Earn respect of future employers. You may be skittish about venturing out to a different career arena, but a future company sizing up your résumé will be impressed by the decision to work in a field foreign to your expertise rather than not working at all.
Even if a temporary job isn't in line with what you were doing before, Marx says, "it's better from an employer's point of view if you show that you continued to work."