Career Advice

Five Steps To Securing A Temp Job

Anyone looking for bright spots in the employment data has to point their binoculars at the slow retail revival and the steady temporary services hiring trends.

Almost half the new jobs created in the last year or so have been temporary jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Temporary firms have hired more people than the healthcare sector  has in a few months over the last year. Altogether they have created 451,000 jobs since September 2009, according to new BLS data out today.

Retailers aren’t as robust, but they’ve turned around from shedding 63,000 jobs in October 2009 to adding 28,000 in October 2010. The BLS also reported that after reaching a trough in December 2009, employment in the retail trade has expanded by 128,000.  (And that doesn’t count the 143,000 jobs added in restaurants, bars and food service.)

Those jobs go far beyond checkout clerk or the Kelly girl who answers phones and handles administrative tasks. Temporary firms place lawyers, senior executives, engineers, graphic designers, accountants and almost every other occupation at companies big and small. The Labor Department doesn’t give specifics on the kinds of temporary jobs being created, but many employers favor hiring temps for assignments of three months or less or at times when they’re not sure yet if they can hire full-time permanent people.

Here are five tips for getting started in temping:

  • Choose three to five temporary agencies. Pick those that specialize in your career or geographic interests. One or two may not be enough and more than five is hard to manage.
  • Bring a great resume. Tighten and tailor it to the kind of work you’re seeking, and make sure you show off your results and awards. “The resume is your door opener,” Robin Mee told me for a Washington Post story on temping. Mee is founder and president of Mee Derby and a staffing industry expert.
  • Enthusiasm and expertise work. If you’re looking for a holiday job or something in the consumer, customer world, a positive attitude is the No. 1 attribute hiring managers want, and that has shown up as tops consecutive years in a survey on holiday hiring.  A close second is previous experience in the field.
  • Look for assignments to build credibility or credentials. Some offer excellent resume boosting potential. Consider how the company’s name will look on your resume – and that may make a tedious assignment worth taking. Or look at the skills or experience or connections you could create.
  • Show commitment and flexibility. You may have to show up for shifts that start at 5 a.m. and work every weekend in December. Or you may have to work 60 hours to finish a rush project for a client. Be realistic and yet optimistic about your availability. If you can work anytime, don’t mention that you prefer the prime shifts or you may not be seen as flexible.  As the temp, you may get stuck with the busiest shifts and those others don’t want to work but your willingness to take those and work them well may give you an edge for a permanent job or an extension through February.

If you’re interested in a temporary holiday job at a retailer, restaurant, caterer or package delivery, apply very soon: 80 percent of employers will finish their recruiting this month, according to a CareerBuilder survey.

To be sure temping isn’t for everyone – some people need constancy or can’t stand crowds. But this year especially, temping can bring opportunities and enough pay so the holidays will shine bright.