The Advantages and Disadvantages of Temping
By Susan P. Joyce
Like anything else, there are definitely advantages and disadvantages for becoming a short-term employee.
Being a temp can be the perfect solution to career and/or personal needs, or temping may simply provide a way to pay the bills until a better job is found.
The jobs typically range in length from one day to several days or a few weeks.
For details on what a temporary job is, how to get one, and how they work, read Guide to the Temporary Work Options.
[Longer temporary jobs, lasting several weeks or months, are often called freelancing, contracting, or gigs.]
Reasons for Taking a Temporary Job
These days, job seekers have many reasons to take a temporary job:
- The job is usually only available as a temporary or "seasonal" job.
- A temporary job is preferred by the job seeker.
- A temporary job is all the job seeker can find in their local job market or field, at the current time.
All of these are valid reasons for taking a temporary job. Particularly if you have been unemployed for more than six months, a temporary job can be your best options.
Advantages of Taking a Temporary Job
A temporary job definitely offers advantages to the job seeker:
- The temporary job may be exactly the job the job seeker wants, with a time limit for the employment commitment.
- It provides an income stream while the "real" job search continues. (We called this the "salary continuation plan" in the past.)
- It may give the job seeker a chance to "test drive" a job, an employer, a profession, or an industry.
- The job seeker has an opportunity to start their career migration to a new field.
- It fills a gap in experience needed for the next job.
- It fills or a gap in the resume's employment history
- Sometimes, it provides both income and benefits (health insurance, etc.)
- Sometimes, it opens the door to a permanent job, often referred to as "temp-to-perm." These jobs give both the employee and the employer an opportunity to see how they work together.
With luck, a temporary job may provide all of these benefits and more.
Disadvantages of Taking a Temporary Job
Of course, a down-side exists for temporary work:
- Temp jobs are, by definition, short term, usually less than a month, often less than a week. If you want a longer term job without making a full commitment to the employer as a "permanent" employee, freelancing or contracting can be a better option.
- Many temps report feeling isolated and not well-respected by other employees. I'm sure this varies by organization and "corporate culture," but it happens.
- Most temps are not paid top dollar for what they do, unless they have a skill that is quite scarce.
- Depending on the agency, you may find that you have fewer benefits (sick days, paid vacation, for example).
- The site manager and other employees may not be particularly helpful when you are in a learning mode.
The good news is that these jobs are, by definition, temporary! The atmosphere and people change with every job. So, if one job is unpleasant, the next one may be great. Read Turn Temporary Work Challenges into Opportunities for more information.
The Bottom Line
It's a balancing act. For some people, being a temp is perfect for them. For others, being a temp is a hopefully short stop before a full-time "permanent" job is found.
More About Temporary Work Options
About the author...
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.