Take a temp job? One that’s not even related to your field or industry? That’s career suicide! Or is it…
We’ve seen it again and again: Job seekers who are more willing to have a gap in their employment than to take a chance on temp jobs. It’s never been a great strategy and, in 2021, that’s truer than ever.
“With COVID-19 affecting so many industries, temp jobs are a nice way to keep your skills sharp and help pay the bills at the same time. They are also a good choice for someone considering moving into a new industry or someone deciding what their next career move should be,” writes career coach Hallie Crawford. “You can impress a future hiring manager by showing them that you worked in an unfamiliar field instead of not working at all.”
Let’s lay it out:
Like other jobs, temp jobs were suddenly and dramatically reduced at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. But as business consultant group McKinsey uncovered, temporary labor can be a leading indicator of a recovery.
“During the Great Recession of 2008, temporary-labor services experienced greater job losses, followed by a faster rebound compared with the broader economy: from June 2009 to June 2011, these services experienced a 30% increase in jobs (whereas total nonfarm employment grew less than 1%),” McKinsey knowledge experts point out. “This pattern supports the notion that companies may lean on temporary and contract workers as the economy bounces back from COVID-19.”
According to the firm, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, food processing, and logistics and distribution have all experienced increased demand during the pandemic.
“And while the market for IT decreased initially, these occupations are expected to rebound, in part because the pandemic has elevated the importance of digital technologies and e-commerce for business,” they write (the market for IT jobs in Austin is booming, by the way).
Taking a Leap
This shift in the job market means the job you know you want—whether permanent or temporary—may not be available to you right now. But therein lies the opportunity to try new things. We’re attracted to fancy job titles and ‘sexy’ industries, but there are other factors that make a job great.
Need an example? Stephanie Grubbs, Practice Director for The HT Group’s Staffing Division has one:
“We work with a company that sells catheters. Few people dream of breaking into the catheter business, of course, so selling the position to a potential job candidate is always a little difficult,” she admits. “How do we overcome this? It’s easy. This company is AMAZING. Their work environment, culture and overall fun in the office is contagious. Everyone is treated as an employee, including temporary contractors. They’re positive and eager to help newcomers feel at home. I tell each candidate, ‘I guarantee if I can get you an interview, you will be calling me telling me how much you want this job.’”
Where it Can Lead
Working temp jobs open several career pathways. First, it can give you transferable skills that you can use to catapult into other fields. These can be soft skills like leadership and teamwork or they can be hard skills like specific software proficiency and project management experience.
Gaining these skills and taking a chance on a temp job that’s in an unexpected field can help you switch into a new industry and can propel you into a higher-paid job. We explain the process in this article, which introduces the idea of a lifeboat job—something many have needed in the past year.
And then there’s this path: What if you love a temp job and want to keep it? It’s common for a temporary position to turn into a permanent job when the talent and employer are a match. The position may be temp-to-hire from the start, with an expectation that it could be permanent after a period of time (say, six months), or a job offer could be a happy surprise to both the worker and employer.
What to Look For
As in Grubbs’ example, temp jobs give you the opportunity to place more emphasis on work culture and actual job functions than job titles and industries. What are the values you want to share with your employer? (A commitment to excellence? Kindness above all?) What do you want your day to be like? (Work from home? Use your creativity? Interact with fascinating people?) When those preferences align, we encourage you to give the job a try.
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