Each day, nearly 3 million American workers head to work at temporary jobs. They range from clerks to construction workers, attorneys to medical aides, engineers to accountants.
Once the realm of people who preferred part-time, flexible work schedules or newbies needing a foot in the door, agency-placed temporary jobs are a growing haven for laid-off professionals and those in skilled trades. And with companies cutting millions of full-time jobs this year, staffing industry experts say they're fielding more and more applications from seasoned workers.
"Staffing firms have been flooded with candidates," says Steve Berchem, vice president of the American Staffing Association, a staffing industry group based in Alexandria, Va. After a slump in 2008, hiring has stabilized this year, with professional and managerial posts making up about 50 percent of temporary jobs.
The weekly paycheck may not be as fat as at your previous job, but it definitely pays to work at temporary jobs. The average worker in the temporary sector earned $14.77 per hour in March, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on your abilities and background, the rate can range from minimum wage for day laborers to more than $120 per hour for doctors and senior executives.
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"And money isn't the only factor," says Jon Osborne, director of research for Staffing Industry Analysts in Los Altos, Calif. Aside from networking opportunities, training and fringe benefits, "a lot of (the) time, it's sort of a lifestyle decision. People decide they don't want the same 40-hour-a-week job forever."
Whatever your reason, if you're thinking of entering the temporary work force, here are eight tips for finding and keeping the best temporary job.
1. Target the right agencies. Investigate the Web sites and marketing materials of staffing firms to make sure they target your area of expertise.
Thousands of international, local and niche firms operate some 20,000 branch offices in the U.S. Some are listed in this story. For others, run a Google search of the name of your nearest large city and the words "temporary agencies," and you'll likely pull up an agency directory and, often, a grass-roots message board or Web site where veteran "temps" trade advice.
Peruse the job listings on a variety of staffing sites to get a feel for what matches your skills and goals. And don't overlook word of mouth.
"Talk to people who have used the agency," says Janet Sloan, president of Seville Staffing in Chicago. "Find out who has treated them well."