More than 1/3 of American companies are operating with smaller staffs than before the recession.  However, these companies still need to run a business, so they have turned (in many cases) to temporary workers. In this same survey, 36% have said they will hire temporary workers this year.  This is up 2% from 2011 and 8% from 2009.  Of the companies hiring temporary workers, 35% have plans to make these workers full-time employees.   Temp-to-hire is a growing trend, as many companies embrace the “try-before-you-buy” hiring model.

However, the story is not one-sided.  Temporary-to-hire positions can also be a viable way for you to re-enter the workforce.  This hiring model is gaining popularity for employers, allowing them to better plan for long-term staffing needs and better hire for cultural fit; it can also be a wonderful opportunity for you to get back to work, as long as you are willing to embrace this new type of employment.

Full-time employment with the same employer for the entire length of your career is no longer the norm. According to the BLS, the younger Baby Boomers held 11 jobs from the age of 18 to 44.  This is the new normal – multiple jobs and employers within the span of your career. Workers today need to be open to all opportunities, both within and outside your current career path.  Technology is simply changing too much and too quickly. Without constant and active management, gaps in your employment history will occur.   Temporary-to-hire (and temporary) positions can help bridge these gaps.

The median duration of unemployment is 19.8 weeks (as of June 2012).  This means that half of all unemployed workers have been without a job for just less than 5 months.  That is an awful long time to forgo a paycheck. Instead of languishing in job-search purgatory, work with a local human capital management (i.e. staffing) firm to find temporary-to-hire (or temporary) positions.

Doing so has many benefits.

  • You will have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, which can be a huge boost to your morale.
  • You will earn a paycheck.  In temporary employment, pay can vary widely, depending on the type of job – the national average is $15.89 an hour – but pay is only one reason why you should leverage temporary jobs.
  • You can “get your foot in the door”.  If you feel that you need to make a career change, a temporary-to-hire assignment will let you get a firsthand feel whether this new career is something you really want to do.  Many people have a “Plan B” – a nebulous idea of the career that they will pursue if they lose their current job. However, very few have any real idea of whether or not they are actually suited for “Plan B” in terms of both skills and temperament.  A temporary assignment provides that opportunity, and (unlike volunteer work) will earn a paycheck.

However, like everything in life, there are no guarantees that the temporary position will convert to a full-time position once the trial period ends. If this happens, do not despair.  There will be other opportunities; everything happens for a reason.  Simply thank them for the opportunity, ask for a reference and stay on good terms with the employer for whom you temped.  You really do not have any idea why the temporary job was not converted to a full-time position.  In most cases, the reason stems from budget issues or unforeseen customer issues and not from you.  You never know when the opportunity could reappear, so do not burn bridges.  This potential employer is now part of your network.

Use temporary or temporary-to-hire work as an opportunity to evaluate companies, careers and work environments.  Evaluate potential employers just the same way that they are evaluating you.  Take your time there seriously, put in the effort, and show a positive attitude.  The goal for any type of temporary-to-hire position is to ensure a perfect fit.  If that is not achieved, no one – including you – will be happy.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.