Temporary jobs are positions that last for a limited time, as opposed to permanent employment. Temporary workers can fall into several categories, including those who are placed in jobs through temporary employment agencies , seasonal workers, and contract employees. These positions can be full time or part time, and they encompass all job levels, from unskilled to professional. The length of employment can last anywhere from several hours to a number of years, depending on the needs of the employer.
People work in temporary jobs for a variety of reasons. Many job seekers use temporary employment agencies (temp agencies) or seasonal positions to gain experience or contacts in the workplace. Other temporary employees are further along in their career. Some people seek out temporary positions as a means of reentering the workforce after a period of unemployment. Others prefer to pick and choose short-term positions that suit their employment and lifestyle needs. Retired workers and senior citizens sometimes take on temporary jobs as a means of transitioning out of the workforce or adding to their retirement income without a long-term commitment.
Traditionally, businesses hired temporary employees (typically through a temp agency) to fill the positions of employees who were sick, on vacation, or on personal leave, including maternity leave. Businesses now also use temporary employees to work on short-term projects, meet deadlines, or handle a seasonal increase in business.
In the 1990s temp agency growth surged as businesses increasingly used temporary employees to meet changing labor needs. According to a study published in 2010 in the Monthly Labor Review, temp agencies had 1 million employees and accounted for about 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce in 1990. Temporary employment peaked in 2000, when such agencies had 2.7 million employees and accounted for 2 percent of all employment in the United States. With the economic recession of 2001, temporary employment experienced a decline.
In the early twenty-first century tracking the state of temporary employment has proven to be a useful tool in understanding the changing nature of the American economy. The Federal Reserve System monitors the temporary job rates in the United States because trends in temporary employment often anticipate changes in the wider labor market, such as overall employment growth, employment changes within a particular industry, and shifting demands for certain skills in the labor market.
There are several types of temporary employment. Perhaps the best known are jobs gained through temporary employment agencies. Job seekers using temporary employment agencies are contracted with those agencies, not with the employers for whom they will perform their work tasks. A temp agency screens and places workers for employers, who pay a fee to the agency. The employee is paid by the temp agency, not the company for which he or she works.
Many of the jobs available through temp agencies are clerical, including secretary, receptionist, data-entry operator, and clerk. Other positions frequently offered by temp agencies fall under the categories of transportation and material moving, production, and customer service. Jobs associated with construction, health care, and business and financial operations are also quite common. One twenty-first-century trend in temporary agency employment includes an increasing number of high-skill, high-paying occupations. These include jobs in legal, computer, education, business services, and social services categories.
Another common type of temporary position is seasonal employment. Seasonal employees work for a specific time period that is usually defined by the time of year. For example, agricultural workers who work harvesting fruits and vegetables are typically seasonal employees. Many high school and college students hold summer seasonal jobs such as lifeguard, amusement park worker, or summer resort employee. In the weeks and months before the Christmas holiday, many retail operations hire seasonal workers to meet increased sales traffic in their stores.
Contract work is an increasingly popular form of temporary employment in the twenty-first century. Such employees work under a contract with a company for a specific period of time. Contract employees are usually experienced in their field. Sometimes contract employees are hired to work on a specific project or to fulfill a short-term need in the company. Some companies use many contract workers in lieu of hiring full-time employees to circumvent the need to provide benefits or manage employees’ career track.
Temporary jobs also give you work experience to list on your résumé, especially if you are new to the job market. By working at a variety of businesses, you may gain access to more potential contacts and references. You can also build a professional reputation and, if applicable, a portfolio (examples of your creative work or a collection of documents demonstrating your skills and experience). As a temporary employee, you might discover information about permanent positions within a company or industry. If a temporary job does not work out, you can obtain another position through your temp agency.
Overall, the hiring process tends to be more relaxed for temporary positions than for permanent positions. There is more scheduling flexibility, and you can pick and choose which jobs you take. You can work part time or full time. If you are unemployed, temporary positions can also provide work while you search for a permanent position.
Sometimes a seasonal position can become an annual job. For instance, many college students, agricultural workers, and other temporary employees return to the same resort, retail establishment, or farm each time that business's employment opportunities return. Contract work can also lead to long-term working relationships, often in the form of more contracts.
Although businesses generally expect temporary workers to have a certain skill set before hiring them, many temp agencies and employers invest in some degree of training. The amount of training varies, but there is often at least a minimal amount given to ensure the temporary worker can complete a job and meet the needs of a business. Some temp agencies and employers will help you acquire new job skills through specific training.
Although temporary employment has many positive aspects, drawbacks exist as well. The positions are temporary, so even if you like a job, it is often not possible to keep it long-term and become a permanent employee. When a temporary position ends, you can face a period of unemployment. There is also less job security with a temporary position, because such workers can often be easily replaced.
Temporary workers are also typically paid less and often not at a rate comparable to permanent positions. Temporary employees generally do not receive employee benefits (such as health insurance and sick leave). However, some temp agencies offer benefits and vacation pay for temporary employees who remain a regular part of their pool of workers for an extended period of time.
In addition, temporary workers do not receive guidance on their career track from their employers. They are expected to know enough to complete a task with minimal training. Many temporary employees do not feel a connection to the company or project for which they are working. As a result, they sometimes feel less effective and make less of an effort than permanent employees.
During periods of higher unemployment and economic recession , many more job seekers register with temp agencies. While such agencies report greater interest in such jobs from companies during these economic downturns, there is often more competition for the same positions. Seasonal employment experiences a similar phenomenon.
Agricultural workers and other seasonal workers can face exploitation in terms of pay and hours. For agricultural workers and some other summer seasonal workers, the labor involved is physically exhausting, and they often toil in all weather conditions with little time off. Even temporary employment agency workers can be considered exploited, such as when businesses use permatemps (temporary workers kept on for months or years without the benefits a permanent employee would receive).
Because temporary jobs are becoming more common, they can be found in many of the same ways as permanent jobs. For example, online job boards, such as Monster (http://www.monster.com ) and Careerbuilder (http://www.careerbuilder.com ), list temporary positions. College career centers, profession-specific job boards, professional groups, and government websites (such as http://www.careeronestop.org , sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor) also list temporary, contract, and seasonal positions. Other possible sources for temporary jobs include personal contacts, advertisements, and job fairs.
The best-known way to get temporary jobs is through a temporary employment agency. Kelly Services (http://www.kellyservices.com ) are two examples of international temp agencies. Some agencies post their job listings online. Many job seekers register at several temp agencies to ensure they have access to a number of job opportunities.
Before applying at a temporary employment agency or for a contract position, you should have a résumé, job history, list of job skills, and references list prepared. A temp agency will require you to go through a background check and screening process. Sometimes this process will involve just the agency, but in some cases it might involve potential employers as well. If you are already a specialized worker, you will have to prove that you possess the relevant skills.
When using a temp agency, you should research the agency, its history, and its placement record. You should ask the agency if you have to pay a fee when they find you a job. You should also inquire about how often you will be paid, whether there are any benefits available, and the potential for growth. If the agency provides training, you should ask if there are any requirements to receive it.
If you are ultimately interested in permanent employment, another aspect to consider in choosing a temp agency is the availability of temporary-to-permanent positions. An increasing number of companies use temp agencies to locate and screen potential employees. The period in which you are a temporary employee is a trial period that allows the employer to see if you are a good fit before hiring you permanently.