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Working for Temp Agencies – Pros & Cons of Temping (Temporary Job)

By Claire Moore

temp office jobIt’s a tough job market out there right now, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Finding work is especially challenging for young people who are just starting their careers, as well as for those who are older and trying to move into a new career.

You can feel as though you’re caught in a catch-22: You need the experience to get the job, but you can’t get experience without a job. However, many people are finding that the answer to their problem is to temp.

How Temping Works

Temporary (“temp”) employment agencies find workers for companies that need people to fill in on a short-term basis. The company benefits because it doesn’t incur all the administrative costs of placing an ad, interviewing, and possibly training a new employee. It also saves by paying a flat hourly rate to the temp agency, which issues a paycheck to the temp and handles all the payroll withholding and benefits.

The temp agency finds workers and places them with the appropriate company, and the temp worker is on the job only as long as they are needed – it could be for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. I know people with computer skills who have been temps at the same company for years.

The Good News

Here’s the good news: Temp jobs in the U.S. are on the rise, and experts interpret this trend to mean that employers are starting to think about hiring. The move to more temporary hiring indicates that employers are willing to try out potential candidates for permanent jobs. What this means for you is that working as a temp could very well blossom into a permanent, full-time job.

Choosing a Temp Agency

There are many different types of temp agencies. Some specialize in a particular industry, such as computer technology or accounting. Others specialize in certain types of jobs, like administrative or managerial. Some even offer medical and vacation benefits. Check out several agencies before you decide which one to work with, and be sure to ask the following questions:

  • Do you charge a placement fee, or does the employer pay the fee?
  • How long is the typical time between assignments?
  • Do you provide any training?
  • Do you provide any benefits?
  • What is your job placement rate?

Don’t work with any agency that charges you a fee for placement. Most agencies collect their fees from the employer.

When you work with a temp agency, expect to be interviewed just as you would for any other job. You may also have to take a typing or computer skills test. Consider yourself lucky if the agency is willing to provide you with free training.

Working With Your Temp Agency

Once you settle on an agency to work with, you must sign a contract with them. Be sure to read all the fine print, and ask questions about anything you don’t fully understand.

Under the contract, you agree to become an employee of the temp agency. Any offers of work, either temp or permanent, must go through the agency. Don’t assume that you can make your own connections and subvert the agency to get a job.

temp work

Advantages of Temping

1. Gain Exposure
Temping gives you the opportunity to see what different company cultures are like and what you prefer as an employee. Do you thrive in a fast-paced environment? Do you enjoy sitting at a desk? Do you like working with the public? Now is the time to discover what you’re good at and what you really want out of a job.

You can also learn about career fields you might not otherwise be exposed to. For example, I once temped at the office of a medical society and learned about a unique medical specialty I had never previously heard of. This type of exposure could make all the difference when choosing your future career.

2. Make Contacts
As a temp worker, you’ll be represented by an agency with more contacts than you could ever develop on your own. Furthermore, the agency has the inside track on who’s hiring and what they’re really looking for. When you work with an agency, you come with a seal of approval and are well ahead of the applicant off the street.

3. Transition Into Permanent Employment
Once you’re on the job as a temp, the employer gets a chance to see you shine. Don’t be surprised if what started out as a week’s assignment turns into a permanent job offer. When that time comes, you’ll know if this is a company that you want to stay with long-term. You don’t have to accept the offer but if you do, be sure to let the temp agency know.

4. Enjoy Flexibility
Most temp jobs are 40 hours a week while they last, and when your assignment is over, you can take some time off if you’d like. Just be sure to maintain enough of a presence in the job pool to keep the temp agency interested in working with you. If you keep disappearing from sight, they might decide that you’re just too flaky.

5. Gain Skills and Experience
I’ve met several people over the past few years who have been laid off from their jobs and are now trying to move onto a more lucrative career. Taking courses at your local community college or adult education school will teach you new skills, but nothing teaches you as well as personal experience.

For example, you could take a QuickBooks course at a local community college. And because QuickBooks is used by about 95% of small businesses in the U.S., you will probably get plenty of placements where you can further hone your QuickBooks expertise and gain ancillary experience and expertise in the process.

A combination of classwork and on-the-job experience is the ideal way to prepare yourself for a new line of work. If you can prove to the temp agency that you have some basic skills, they will very likely place you in jobs where you can work under supervision and further enhance your skill set.

temp work

Disadvantages

There’s a downside to everything, and that includes temping:

  • You may feel isolated
  • You may be treated like a second-class citizen on the job
  • There is a lack of certainty about income
  • You may not have health insurance, a pension plan, or paid vacations

There aren’t very many disadvantages to temping – but if you like the security of a regular job and the camaraderie of a consistent circle of coworkers, you may find temping to be a disappointment.

Final Word

Temping isn’t for everybody but it could help you gain visibility in a crowded and uncertain job market. Plus, it will keep you from having unsightly gaps in your resume. And if you’re reentering the workforce or just entering the job market, a temporary job could be one of the few ways to get your foot in the door to a permanent position.

Have you tried temping? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you experiences first hand?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

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Claire Moore
In addition to her writing, Claire teaches business and computer skills for several universities in Northern California. In 2009 she published her first book, "Jumpstart Your Bookkeeping Business" which provides a step-by-step plan for starting a bookkeeping business based on her experiences as a professional bookkeeper and tax preparer.

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  • Goodfood101

    Talk about experiences – one at the V.A. had me quit the second day – the head of the department locked all the doors so he could smoke – there is a no smoke policy in government offices – and the place turned grey with his constant cigarette smoke. Another experience which didn’t go well was that the ‘temp’ was the designated janitor – chair neeed? call the temp to move furniture – boxes needed to go to storage – have the temp pick up the 50 lb. box – wash the coffee pot – aha – all this besides doing your regular job of answering phones, filing, etc. Yes, you are isolated, ignored and looked down on but you do get paycheck.

  • Cmoorewriter

    Goodfood101
    Boy, that’s quite a story and I don’t doubt it. Luckily, a temp job is just that – temporary. So you’re not stuck in a bad situation forever. Remember, you can always tell the temp agency to move you to another position. No one deserves to be exploited.

  • silkskin1960

    A paycheck pays my bills…..popularity is still waiting to learn how to pay one….I can deal with not having friends….PAY ME…and that takes care of my issues. Im not paid to win populariity contest…but thats just me…

    • silkskin1960

      Temp jobs is a great way to gain EXPERIENCE….and that is what most companies like the most. Ive been working temps since 1996. Ive had some good jobs and some job offers. If the company went belly up or downsized or whatever, I could always go back to the agency and get another gig. Enroll with more than one or two….they will keep a paycheck in your pocket. Not to mention, you name because part of the elite list in staffing office. They will send you out to their best clients and get you top dollar once you have done well on assignments for them. I love it personally :-) and recommend it to everyone. Now days its hard to find a job that has health benefits. Well…the agencies offer it. Might not be the best but SOME beats NONE all day long. And my bills are getting paid….you decide.

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