Recent positive employment statistics hide a troubling truth—many of the jobs being created in this economic recovery are not very desirable. There are plenty of openings if you’re willing to work for minimum wage in retail or fast food, but far fewer if your career goals are at all ambitious.

At the same time, many very desirable employers are taking on temps—in fact, temporary positions account for nearly 9% of the job growth of the past five years. And becoming a temp worker can be a great way to find a very good full-time job. Temp assignments typically last only a few weeks or months. But temping lets you get a foot in the door with a desirable employer…acquire in-demand job skills…and make valuable professional contacts. This is true if you’re just starting out…or are in that hard-to-find-a-job 50-and-older age group…or somewhere in between. You even may be retired and looking for a way to use your skills in the workplace. Here’s how to use temping to reach your goal…


Settle on your goal for temping before you start. Without a specific goal, it’s easy to just drift from one low-paying temp position to the next without ever getting your career on track. This goal might be as specific as “Get in the door with either Smith Co. or Jones Co.”…or as general as “Make a few dollars, and explore different companies and sectors until I find work I enjoy.” If your goal is to work for a particular employer (or one of a small group of employers), scan that company’s website for temp openings or contact its human resources department.

If you don’t have a specific company in mind, sign up with a temp agency. You can find agencies in your area by typing “temp agency” and the nearest city into an Internet search engine. If you live in an area with multiple temp agencies, choose one that regularly works with people in your profession or with companies in sectors that appeal to you. Temp agencies’ websites often list the professions and sectors they work with. If not, call and ask.


When a temp assignment is offered to you, ask yourself…

Does this seem like a great place to work? If not, politely decline. Tell the temp agency that you are anxious to work, but that this particular position or company is not a great fit for you.

Is this employer growing? A temp job at a company that is increasing its revenue and adding permanent staff as well as temps is much more likely to lead to a permanent position than one at a company that is stagnant or shrinking. A temp job at a company that is laying off permanent employees and hiring temps instead is especially unlikely to lead to a full-time job.

To find out whether a company is ­growing, enter its name into a search engine and look for recent news stories about its financial state…network with anyone you know in the sector…read the company’s recent SEC filings if it has stock that trades on a stock exchange (these filings should be available on the company’s website)…and search job websites to see if the company is adding permanent staff in any capacity.

Is this temp assignment likely to put you in direct contact with the company’s decision makers? Your odds of landing a permanent position increase dramatically if an executive who has the power to offer you a job is impressed by you in person.

Is the position described as “temp to perm”? That means the employer specifically expressed an interest in offering a permanent position to a temp who excels. (But don’t reject a position just because it is not listed as temp to perm.)

Will you be able to do this job well from day one without much training? Employers may not always invest much time in training temps, nor will they have time to spend answering temps’ questions. The best way to impress is to jump right in and do the job well with minimal hand-holding.

How many employees does this company have? Obamacare rules can make it expensive for companies to grow from 49 to 50 employees. Companies approaching this threshold sometimes hire temps rather than permanent staff to avoid reaching 50. Such companies are very unlikely to offer a temp a permanent job. If there is a staff list on the company’s website, count the names to see if this is a potential issue.


Once you accept a temp assignment, the best way to boost the odds that it will lead to the offer of a permanent position is, of course, to exceed performance expectations. But there is a second way to improve these odds that temps often overlook—become part of the company’s culture. If colleagues and company decision makers see you as a member of the family, they won’t want to see you go.

Examples: Bring in coffee or pastries for coworkers. Attend office parties. Put a few dollars in the kitty when a collection is taken for a gift. Join the office softball team, and/or sign up for company-sponsored volunteer activities. Dress the same way that permanent employees dress. Ask colleagues to lunch. If the company offers employee-training programs, ask if you can sign up. This shows commitment and can provide valuable skills.

When the end date of a temp assignment nears, meet with your boss and ask if there are any opportunities to extend the employment. If this boss seems at all receptive, suggest specific roles you could realistically fill for the company.


All is not lost if a permanent job is not immediately offered. As the temp position’s end nears…

Tell all the people you know at the company that you enjoyed working with them but that your final day is coming soon. Someone other than your current supervisor might have a position to offer—but he/she might not realize you will soon be available.

Ask your boss for permission to list him/her among your references on future job applications.

Ask your colleagues if you can connect with them on LinkedIn. Keep track of their careers—they might later be in a position to offer you a job or put in a good word for you with someone who can.

Lump all of your temp assignments together in a single entry on your résumé. Label this entry “Temporary work.” Listing each temp assignment as a separate entry could make it look like you jump rapidly from job to job—a red flag for potential employers.

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