Once upon a time, temps were a great solution when companies needed extra coverage during a peak season, to fill in for a vacationing employee or fill in for an employee on maternity leave.
No longer. Today, temp workers are an essential part of most organizations’ staffing strategy and there are both pros and cons to taking this route in your career.
An Evolution of Temporary Workers in America
In the early 1980s, fewer than 600,000 Americans worked temp jobs. The National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services reports that figure rose to 2.7 million – the most on government records dating to 1990. According to a Harris interactive survey, to keep businesses operating, 36 percent of companies will hire contract or temporary workers in 2012, up from 28 percent in 2009, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals. Driving this increase is the continuing uncertainty in the economy and the desire for employers to have more flexibility in keeping staffing levels in concert with revenues.
Some employers also increased the number of temporary staff to avoid having to provide healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, the Obama administration delayed that provision of the law for one year.
Historically, temps were administrative support, seasonal sales workers, and other lower level staff. Today, temp services have widened to include professional services, for example, which include lawyers, doctors, healthcare professionals and information technology specialists to name a few.
Temporary Work – the Good
Everyone who has ever worked a 40 hours a week job has imagined having more freedom and flexibility. No more fighting traffic, more time to get your kid’s sporting events after school or not having to cram everything you need to get done into a weekend.
Temporary work offers that type of flexibility. You don’t have to accept an assignment that replaces one 9-5 job with another. You can negotiate 3-4 days a week and/or the opportunity to work remotely if it makes sense. It also offers you an opportunity to try something new if you are considering a career change as well as the ability to work in various companies. This can help build your network and really get a first hand look at the type of company and culture you really want.
Finally, if you are one of the millions of Americans who were laid off because of staff reductions or your previous employer went out of business, temporary work is probably one of the best ways to get your foot in the door of a company that could lead to a full time position.
Temporary Work – the Not So Good
There are fundamental downsides to being a temporary worker. Most importantly, since you are not a full-time employee, you often are not eligible for any of the perks, including health insurance, paid vacations, eligibility to enroll in a 401(k), performance reviews and raises, etc.
However, the biggest disadvantage is that there is a greater uncertainty in maintaining employment when you are a temp worker. It’s simply easier for a company to terminate a temporary worker than a permanent one and as the economy continues to flail, your position may be the first to go when there are problems.
So is This the Right Move for You?
If you are considering entering into the temporary staffing world, there are many good agencies that can help get your resume to a hiring manager. In response to the overwhelming need for temporary workers, agencies are now very specialized. There are agencies for lawyers, administrators, healthcare professionals, IT specialists and more.
Think about whether having the flexibility and uncertiainty that goes along with being a temp worker fits your personality. Do you have what it takes to perhaps move from one place to another with no sense of "belonging" to the group?
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