Temporary jobs

Temporary jobs are seriously underrated. In theory, they're non-career jobs, but that definition isn't particularly accurate.

Temp jobs do lead somewhere, if you know how to use them.

They can achieve quite a lot on your CV, where you can show a pretty wide range of diversity and skills. Some do lead to full time work, and good references. Many people do in fact have careers which are more temp than full time.

In the new economy, temp jobs are also a very useful backup. Employment markets are always changing. Some sectors are hiring, some aren't. Gaps in employment are common. Temp jobs fill gaps well, but they're often considered second class jobs by people looking for full time work.

What you can get is what you can get.

The dream job may not be available. Or you may be in an industry like IT, where there are so many people in the market for jobs that competition is fierce, and positions are filled rapidly.

So some gaps are pretty much inevitable.

They're also quite useless, and they create other problems. People tend to create gaps by not applying for alternative jobs because of an expectation of getting work in a particular field.

There's not much point in sitting around waiting for a job that just isn't there.

One of the classic mistakes of job hunting is to create limits for yourself by sticking to one set of possibilities.

The best option is to get something where you can at least have a job, and stay focused, and keep looking. You can also build up quite a CV while you're at it.

Temp jobs are ideal for this. Because temp work is often open-ended, and you find yourself doing a wide range of things beyond the original basic job description, the skills are particularly valuable.

You start out as an administrative assistant, and wind up running the place.

(That does happen. In Australia some years ago, a state government restructuring exercise found that there were so many temps in management positions that they couldn't restructure according to their downsizing plan.)

As you can see, from admin assistant to acting manager includes quite a few possible skills. Your CV as an admin assistant and your CV with managerial experience can't be the same thing.

Hiring temps comes with some advantages for employers and employees in all industries, and there are good practical reasons for that.

In some government agencies, temp jobs are simply extended, because it saves the cost of hiring. In the private sector, temps are expedient. They're a natural choice, because they can be found and hired quickly from agencies. They get the job done, and employers aren't really too fussy as long as they've got the bases properly covered.

Temporary staff placement agenciesTemp agencies, like other employment agencies, are generally considered good or bad. That's partly because some people get truly lousy temp jobs, or the agency shortchanges the employee in some way, promising a great job and getting some drab, low paying, horror instead.They're employment agencies. The fact is that some agencies can get good jobs. Others are quite happy to be paid for whatever they inflict their clients with, both employees and employers. The best way to pick a good temp agency is to talk to other temps. That way you get proof they can place you, and a bit of quality assessment with actual information about how the agency works or doesn't work. Some agencies have reputations, good and bad, but seriously, what matters is the jobs they get you, not ancient history.

Abuses of temporary jobs

There's a potential downside.

Temps can progress, but they can also get saddled with doing a lot of work for a lot less money. That's an inherent risk, and it's quite common. For temps, there are a few things to consider, even when being driven up the wall by extra work and lower pay:

  1. The extra work is useful for your CV. It adds scope and depth.
  2. It is a temporary job. You're in a position to get your skills, and leave to get a better job.
  3. In some cases you can negotiate a better deal if you have the option to leave. That's not unreasonable, and some temps are so valuable employers don't actually have a problem with that. You've proven you can do the job, and do it well.
  4. If there's nothing on offer where you want it, there's not a lot to be said for throwing in a job. It can be expensive, and sometimes leads back to where you started, which is definitely not where you need to be.
  5. If you're using an agency, a good one, you can ask for advice. The agency has a vested interest in placements, but if they have other work, you're a client, and you can give them another placement with your added skills, into a better job.


  1. Don't miss opportunities by playing too safe. You're in a position to move on, and you have some backup if you have a good agency.
  2. Don't stagnate. Your career can get moldy and your skills can become out of date if you stick to a third rate job. You need a job which won't interfere with your opportunities.
  3. Don't take too many risks, either. Make sure you know where you're going, in any temp job. If other jobs appear, check them out thoroughly before jumping ship. You now have the luxury of being able to pick and choose, so use it.

Temp jobs can be springboards to careers. How many times have you heard someone say I started as a temp ?

There are real career possibilities. All you need to do is assess the opportunities. You can graft temp skills onto most jobs, so they're a definite career asset.

In some ways temp jobs are the original version of many modern jobs. They're also the original method of keeping your options open in the job market.

If you can find a good temp job, grab it, and see what it can do for you.