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Guide to the Temporary Work Option

By Susan P. Joyce

Sometimes a temporary job is the proverbial life saver that enables you to pay your bills while you find your next "permanent" job. Or, taking temporary jobs may be an opportunity for you to explore what jobs are available, perhaps laying the groundwork for a career transition into a new field. Other times, temporary work is all you have time for.

As described below, temporary work is usually found through an agency that helps employers fill their short-term needs for workers.

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What Is a "Temporary" Job?

A temporary job may last only a day or two, filling in for someone on vacation or out sick.

Or, it may last for from one week to several weeks, supporting a short-term need an employer may have.

And, sometimes, a temporary job is an audition for a permanent job. These are usually indicated as "temp to perm" positions.

They enable both sides to consider and evaluate:

  • Does the employer like you and how you do the job?
  • Do you like the employer and the job?

When both sides are happy, the transition into a "permanent" position (as permanent as any job is these days) may happen. If the job may be eligible to become a permanent position, that possibility is usually indicated in the job posting.

"Temporary" vs. "Permanent" Employment Trends

In the current economy, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a continuing trend for employers to open temporary jobs.

Maybe these employers will eventually convert those jobs into permanent positions. Maybe they won't.What the future holds is unclear.

Some economists believe that this increase in temporary employment is, in fact, temporary because employers are waiting to open permanent jobs, unsure of the economic recovery. Others see the trend of increased temporary employment continuing into the future - an increasingly permanent part of the whole job market.

Sometimes a temporary job is all you can find.  And, of course, sometimes a "permanent" job becomes temporary when there is a layoff or an employer goes out of business.

Finding Temporary Employment

Temporary jobs are found most often through a recruiting agency. Some agencies specialize in filling temporary positions. Other agencies offer it as a service to their regular clients.

Some employers do post their temp jobs on their websites or through job boards. You may find these job postings through the Internet, like any other job postings. Some job boards specialize in temporary jobs. is typical of the temporary job boards. Job-Hunt sponsor (see the "Job Listings" box above) is the largest source of jobs.

Working with a Temporary Recruiting Agency

Working through a temporary agency is often a short-cut to quickly finding temporary employment, assuming you pass their screening and any testing that may be needed.

When you find a temporary job through a temporary agency, your official employer is the agency. Agencies charge their client employers more for the services of temporary employees than they pay those same employees, or they would not be able to stay in business. At the end of the year, the agency should send you the appropriate IRS forms just like your other employers have done.

Some temporary agencies specialize in a field or an industry, like engineering, nurses, or office workers. Others specialize in a geographic area, and still others offer general recruiting services, filling both permanent and temporary needs their clients have.

Like any recruiting agency, a temporary agency's clients are the employers, not the job seekers, although they may work closely with job seekers who have the skills and experience in high demand.

This section of Job-Hunt will help you find a temporary job.

Other sections of Job-Hunt provide information to help you with other aspects of your job search:

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, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, NETability purchased, which Susan has edited and published since.  Susan also edits and publishes  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.