Should I Take a Temp Job? The Pros and Cons of Temping
by Haley Lyles
If 2020 has thrown a wrench in your career plan, you’re not alone. As of June 11, 44 million U.S. citizens filed for unemployment since shelter-in-place orders began in mid-March. Industries such as transportation, wholesale and retail trade, and hospitality and leisure were hit the hardest, leading to unemployment rates of 14.2%, 15.1%, and 35.9%, respectively. For these industries, jobs can be hard to come by as the economy tries to slowly recover. If you’re struggling to find a job in one of these fields or in other areas impacted by COVID-19, one solution is temporary employment.
Every year, staffing companies in the U.S. hire around 16 million temp employees. According to a recent study, 64% choose this type of work to either fill a gap between jobs or to build toward landing a long-term job. Whether you want to find some references, work seasonally or gain experience while your industry bounces back, use these tips to determine whether or not you should take a temp job.
Why You Should Take a Temp Job
If you have your sights set on a specific career, taking a detour and accepting temporary work can feel like a waste of time. However, there are several reasons why taking a temp job may be the best choice.
1. Fill Working Gaps
Unfortunately, recruiters are trained to scan a resume in six seconds, and one of the red flags they look for is unemployment gaps. For this reason, temporary jobs can be a career-saving move. If you’re struggling to find a job in your desired industry, getting a temp job can be an excellent resume filler while you continue your job hunt.
2. Gain Work Experience
If you’re a recent grad or working on changing industries, overcoming the work experience catch-22 can be difficult. In order to get a job you need experience, but to get experience you need to get a job. This frustrating requirement is the reason why professionals work in underpaid positions or unpaid internships at the beginning of their careers. If you’re in this position, a temporary job could be the answer to your problem. Many temp agencies give employees flexibility when choosing jobs, so you can select companies that can give you the relevant experience.
3. Build Your Job Reference List
Similar to the work experience catch-22, without former job experience, professional references can be hard to come by. If you find yourself coming up short on your reference list, taking some time to work for a staffing company can help. One of the best parts of temping is the networking possibility. As you move from job to job, you’ll be able to meet people in various positions and industries and develop connections that can turn into strong references.
4. The Income Stream
When you’re laid off or face an unexpected gap in employment, income becomes a primary concern. If you’re short on cash and facing large payments, choosing a temporary position can not only be helpful, it can be necessary. According to Payscale, the average temp worker makes $20.59/hour, more than double the U.S. minimum wage.
5. You Love Seasonal Work
If the trees and lights that fill department stores at Christmastime make you happy or if you’re a first-class ski instructor, temp work can be the perfect option for you. Seasonal positions last anywhere from two weeks to six months, depending on the industry, and give workers the flexibility to move predictably from job to job throughout the year.
Why You Shouldn’t Take a Temp Job
Taking a temp job can be helpful and sometimes necessary for professionals who need experience, a steady income or to fill a work gap. However, if you don’t need those things, it may be in your best interest to hold out for a full-time job. Though it can be a rewarding and career-changing job choice, they are reasons why temping isn’t ideal.
1. No Upward Mobility
While temporary positions can give you experience that can help your career down the road, getting a promotion within your staffing company or landing a full-time job with one of the companies you temp for can be difficult. If you want to start the upward trajectory of your career path now, temping may frustrate you. If you’re already employed with a temp agency, be on the lookout for temp-to-perm positions. These jobs typically last for three to six months and then have the option to move to full-time work afterward.
2. Lack of Culture
Work culture is made up of all the things that make an office unique. Everything from Jan’s banana muffins she brings once a week, to the cheesy jokes your boss tells. Work culture is hard to teach and can take months for a newcomer to assimilate. For temp workers that are continually adjusting to a new job, just to be removed shortly after, it can be hard to get involved in work culture. If you value those interpersonal workplace relationships, the constant change and adjustment may not be worth the benefits.
3. Limited Pay
While the average pay for temp workers is actually $1.26 higher than the national wage average, the ceiling is capped shortly after that. For those who are strapped for cash and don’t live extravagantly, temp pay can be substantial, but if you’re striving to make more money for your student debt, children or your retirement plan, temping may not be enough income.
4. Transient Nature
Some temp agencies operate in single cities or metropolitan areas but others hire out individuals all over the country. For jet setting travelers, this may sound like paradise but if you have a family or just like the feel of your own bed, this lifestyle may not be sustainable.
5. Fewer Benefits
One of the biggest drawbacks of temporary working is the lack of benefits. Depending on the agency you choose, you may have inadequate health insurance, little to no PTO and no 401k matching. As you choose the best company for you, pay attention to these offerings before you sign on.
As a temp employee, you’ll be able to enjoy greater flexibility, build up experience and references, and enjoy dozens of other perks, but you’ll also have to face the drawbacks. In the following infographic, we highlight the differences between temp work and permanent positions, make some suggestions on specific opportunities and help you determine which path you should take.
If you have a lack of experience or are trying to enter an industry with no job experience, consider taking a temporary position. While you’re working, use the time to build towards your future goals. Whether it helps you build your resume or leads to a new career, temping can put you on a path to success.