Job Strategy for your career

By: Kay Stoner

Are you a college student who's feeling pressure from your parents to get a job, once you're out of college? Are you a recent grad who needs to succeed, but can't decide what you want to do with your life? Have you been laid off from your company in mid-career, and you need to keep money coming to support your household while you look for your next job? Are you re-entering the workforce after being away for years, and you're not sure how to get back in the game? Or are you making a much-needed career change, but you're unsure what direction you want to take or what company you want to work for? A temporary assignment could be just the thing to help jump-start your next career move.

Now, "temp" is often a "bad word" in social circles. Movies have been made about crazy temporary secretaries, and working conditions of temps aren't always the best, according to Hollywood. But don't write off temping because it's not sexy. It's not just for unemployable office grunts who can't find a real job, anymore. Taking on temporary assignments can buy you valuable time to decide what you truly want to do with your life, or it can help you pay your bills, when you're between permanent full-time jobs. Far from being a last resort of a desperate corporate cast-off, temping can offer a lot of benefits -- in the short-term and the long-term.

What's in a name?

There are many different kinds of "temps," including:

* factory workers
* administrative assistants
* computer programmers
* project managers
* systems analysts
* marketing professionals
* accountants
* executive directors of non-profits
* lawyers

Also called "contractors," "consultants," or "interim employees," what all these folks have in common, is that they are not permanent full-time employees who are locked into one single full-time job. They have an employer -- their placement agency -- whose job it is to keep them working.

Now, if you don't like calling yourself a "temp," you can say you're "on contract" at a company, or you have a "short-term assignment." So many companies use temporary labor (also called "contingency workforce"), these days, that the stigma of being short-term is considerably less than it was, even ten years ago. In fact, many people (myself included) have opted to stay temporary for long periods of time, rather than taking full-time permanent jobs. Being a "free agent" in the working world offers freedom, good pay, and variety of work, not to mention the chance to meet many different kinds of people in many different workplaces.

Temping can also provide you with clues about what to do next in a job market that's full of uncertainty. Through temping, you can explore a wide range of work options, even if you don't have any idea what your next professional step is. You can take a break from the permanent full-time job scene, but still keep money coming in to support your family. You can gain valuable exposure to a variety of different kinds of businesses and a variety of different industries, without taking years out of your life. In today's world, when consumer markets are shifting, jobs are moving offshore, and economic trends can sink whole industries, you have to stay nimble and understand what all your professional options are.

Thinking about going into law? Try being a temporary paralegal or legal secretary for a few months before you enroll in years of law school (and take on thousands of dollars in student debt that will weigh you down in the future). Thinking about civil engineering? Try working in a civil engineer's office for a few weeks, to see if it suits you. Thinking of becoming an office manager or a marketing guru? Try a few assignments on for size, working in that field, and see what you think. Temping -- especially when you're new to the job market, or you're new to a whole industry -- can offer telling insight into what kind of world you'll be entering, if you eventually decide on a certain line of work.

So, don't write off temping because of stereotypes. Many people in many walks of life take short-term assignments, and some professionals actually do so for most of their careers. Temporary work can give you (and your loved ones) peace of mind that you're gainfully employed... and offer considerable freedom to explore all your career options, without taking on a life-altering commitment that you find out later isn't really for you.

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