Temporary employment in the U.S. is on the rise, and the people “in the know” expect this trend to continue.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the “temporary help services industry” is up 8.7% from January of this year (alone).  Compare this to the job growth among all private employers (we are excluding government jobs, here) of 1.7%, and you will see that the temporary job sector is growing exponentially.

Temporary-to-hire staffing is also on the rise.  Given the amount of money a “bad hire” can cost and the slow, plodding nature of this recovery, employers want to try out potential candidates for full-time jobs before they hire.  What this means for you is that working as a temporary could very well bloom into a new, full-time position.

But what do you need to know and how should you behave while you are employed as a temporary worker?

First, be aware that your primary employer is the human capital management (i.e. staffing) firm that has placed you in the position.   Your employer is not necessarily the person that you are interacting with every day.  This can be a difficult concept to internalize.  The paradigm of work has always been that your “boss” is the person who works near you.  You report to him, he evaluates your work, approves your vacation, and guides you through your career.

However, like most things in the workplace, that paradigm is shifting.  People are no longer working for one company their entire career.  We are no longer able to retire on a full pension, and we are no longer working in close proximity to our “boss” or even on the same worksite as our “employer”.  Things have changed.

When you sign with a human capital management firm,  you become their employee.  This is the company that pays you, provides performance feedback, trains you and manages your “personnel files”.   Their client, at who’s site you are working,  simply supervises your day to day work, ensures your work site is safe and determines the length of your assignment.  Any offers, either for further temporary work or a formal job offer, must go through your primary employer.  Do not assume that you can make your own connections at the work site and subvert the firm to get a job.

Working in a temporary position is not for everyone, but it could help you gain needed visibility in this crowded job market.  So, whether you are reentering the workforce or just entering the job market, a temporary position could be one of the few ways to get your foot in the door ….one step in your journey for a full-time job offer.

Have you tried temporary work? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you experienced first-hand?

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