When people wonder how to find a job, they generally think about full-time work. But more often these days, it’s not about committing to a 40-hour-a-week grind at one company for the next two to five years.
Temporary work is its own kind of contract work, often undertaken for a few hours to a few weeks or months, depending on the position and the level in the company. Everyone—from entry-level and C-suite to IT and administrative—can temp. And there are several advantages to keeping your options open.
You get to know a job before committing
Even if you’ve gone through the most thorough interview process available, it’s still hard to know exactly what you’re walking into when you join a company. Enter the temp position, stage left. When you temp for a firm, you can get a sense for the work, the people, and the culture without committing yourself to a full-time position.
“Like an internship, [temping] offers a chance to assess whether this company or industry is one where you’d like to work,” says Christopher Lee, a career consultant in San Diego and founder of PurposeRedeemed.com. “You have an opportunity to build relationships and, if you are interested in pursuing a permanent role there, demonstrate the value you bring through the quality of your work.”
This is especially helpful in discovering when an industry or company isn’t what you expected. A temp position saves you the trouble of having to quit due to a poor fit. “There have certainly been types of jobs that, from the outside, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ and then I got an internship and saw what happens on a day-to-day basis and said, ‘This is not for me,’” Lee says. “Temping can offer that same sort of validation.”
You can develop new skills
It’s easy to get pigeonholed into an industry or career. And once you’re there, you become more of an expert in your subject area—which makes it even harder to jump ship to something else that interests you. With temping, however, you can dip your toe into many different places and pick up a variety of new proficiencies on the job.
“You may have a great work ethic, great background, and you land a position that’s offering a different set of skills or knowledge,” says Deborah Woolridge, a career coach and HR professional in New York City. “And they’re willing to take you under their wing to learn different things.”
This is particularly helpful if you’re coming out of college without a lot of experience, if you’re trying to switch industries, or if you’re returning to work after time off.
The arrangement can be flexible
Maybe you’re starting your own business. Maybe you have a side passion that doesn’t really pay the bills. Whatever it is, you need cash—and flexible, temporary work can provide the income you need while still allowing you the time to work on other things. It’s also a reasonable way to start to power down your career later in life.
“You can imagine the kind of people who have been running really hard for 30 years,” says Debbie Seeger, co-founder of Patina Solutions, an interim executive placement firm. “We’ve found, especially the baby boomer generation, that there is a desire to keep working, but maybe to change the way the work is arranged.”
Temping also gives experienced professionals a way to focus on the part of their work that really gives them joy—and skip the rest. “They want to provide expertise,” Seeger says. “And yet, at the same time, they may not necessarily want to sign up for the fully loaded salary experience.”
You could get a full-time gig
In many cases, a temp position can develop into the real thing. “I landed a job at Sony Music while temping,” says Callista Gould, author of The Exceptional Professional: What You Need to Know to Grow Your Career. “I would have never had the opportunity otherwise.”
When you temp for a company, you’re already top of mind when a job opening becomes available. You’re regularly working with people who know the quality of your work, your work ethic, and your personality. That can make a big difference to a hiring manager when it comes time to consider candidates for a permanent position.
“Should a permanent position open up, I think if you demonstrated your commitment to the company, you’d be a strong candidate compared to someone from the outside applying without any internal references,” Lee says.
Find your fit
Temporary positions offer you a great way to gain new skills and make valuable contacts, which is especially reassuring during such uncertain times.