Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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In today’s world, people are seeking more flexible options for their working lives. They might become full-time freelancers, work several part-time jobs, telecommute, or seek out temporary assignments.

According to a 2016 study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Princeton University, 94 percent of employment growth in the United States economy came from “alternative work,” including temp workers, freelancers, and other non-traditional jobs.

Alternative work, in other words, is having a moment. Temp jobs, which once had a more negative connotation, offer plenty of opportunities to people across numerous industries with a wide range of skills.

What Is a Temp Job?

Temporary employment, often called temp work or a temp job, is just what it sounds like: nonpermanent work that is often full-time but does not offer benefits such as health insurance or paid time off (PTO). 

Organizations hire temps for a variety of reasons. For example, temps may cover for someone who is on maternity leave. Some companies may require seasonal workers for high-demand periods or need people to complete special projects or assignments. In other situations, a business might be considering adding or changing a more permanent job but wants to test different options first.

What Industries Use Temps?

While temp jobs were more limited in the past, today, a wide range of industries hire temps. They include:

• Healthcare: physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and other medical personnel

• Manufacturing

• Information technology

• Engineering

• Law: lawyers, paralegals, and others

• Office and business administration: office managers, administrative assistants, customer service representatives, clerks, and others

• Human resources

Where to Find These Jobs

Temp Agencies

Also known as staffing agencies and temp agencies, temporary employment agencies are often the go-to resource for people looking for nonpermanent work. People come to these agencies to work with recruiters, who will identify suitable employment opportunities. They are usually hired by organizations to find matches.

Temp agencies will perform much of the vetting that the organization or a recruiter would do for permanent positions. They have a pool of candidates seeking out employment and will place them as appropriate, depending on the needs of the employer. Usually, the agency pays the workers as per a contract with the employer, which pays the agency an amount to cover the worker’s wages and an additional fee for the screening and other services. 

Job Boards and Job Search Sites

You can also find temp jobs via job search sites like Indeed, Monster, and the like. Most of these sites have filters that allow you to search for temporary work and other specifications. Company-specific job boards also usually post temporary assignments in addition to more permanent positions.

When usually these sites, you will apply to temp jobs just as you would any other position, generally by submitting a resume, cover letter, and any other pertinent documents or information. 

Don’t assume that you can skip any important details just because the assignment is not permanent; a hiring manager, recruiter, and other personnel will be reviewing and vetting candidates in much the same way that they would with other positions. You should also ensure that your application is applicant tracking system (ATS) friendly, including relevant keywords and presented in a way that is easy for the software to read.

What Is Temp-to-Hire?

Temp-to-hire or contract-to-hire positions are, for all intents and purposes, tests runs for organizations. They will hire temp workers on a trial basis, usually for a few months, with the understanding that, should the employee complete her work satisfactorily and show promise, the business will hire her for a full-time position.

This model allows businesses to see how an employee will fit and perform her work without committing or offering benefits. Neither the organization nor the employee is required to extend the arrangement.

That said, like with other temp jobs, this type of arrangement has its critics. Some believe it is unfair to workers to ask them to work full-time without benefits while assessing their qualifications. Furthermore, the use of a staffing agency can confuse the layers of responsibility and shortchange temp workers, making organizations risk noncompliance with labor laws, according to a 2016 article in The Washington Post.

Permalance vs. Temp-to-Hire

Permalance describes a situation in which an employee works in a full-time or part-time, long-term, freelance capacity for an employer. Permalance is not considered temporary, although the employer or employee may terminate the contract at any time. Permalancers generally do not receive benefits like PTO, sick days, health insurance, and others. 

Like temp-to-hire positions, permalance gigs may become full-time jobs with benefits. However, this is not a stipulation of the original agreement, as it generally is with temp-to-hire jobs. Temp-to-hire positions usually have a stated duration time, at the end of which the organization will determine whether it wants to hire you full-time. Permalancers could be working in the same role for any period of time.

Permalancers often have multiple jobs, although some may essentially work full-time as a freelancer for a single company. 

Tips for Temp Workers

If your position is temp-to-hire, it’s important to make the most of it. Even if it’s not, you still want to impress your employer. After all, you never know how this role might impact the rest of your career. Here are some tips for success.

• Pretend it’s a permanent job.

Treat your temp job like it’s anything but temporary. Show up on time, put in the effort, and present high-level work.

• Get to know your colleagues.

Take the time to interact with coworkers. Doing so could help you forge professional connections that might aid you throughout your career.

• Ask questions.

Learn about the company and procedures. If this is a temp-to-hire position, you want to make sure it’s the right fit for you. It’s also an important step for learning about your work and the industry.

• Show enthusiasm.

Make it clear that you want to be there. It won’t be fun or helpful for you, your manager, or your coworkers if you’re acting like you’re just waiting for the assignment to end. 

Key takeaways:

  1. Temp jobs are nonpermanent positions that don't come with benefits or PTO.
  2. Healthcare, manufacturing, information technology, engineering, law, business administration and HR are industries where temp jobs are especially prevalent.
  3. Job seekers often find available positions through temp agencies or on job boards.
  4. Temp-to-hire or contract-to-hire positions are essentially test runs for organizations, where they can try out employees prior to hiring them on a more permanent basis.
  5. In order to be successful in these roles, temp workers should act like the job is permanent, get to know colleagues, ask questions and show enthusiasm.

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