As the jobs recovery has limped along, one sector has surged: temporary employment.
Hesitant to commit to full-time employees, companies have increasingly turned to contract workers to fill job openings. In August, the staffing industry added more than 13,000 jobs, 7.2 percent more than were added in August 2012. Since the recession ended, the country has added nearly a million such jobs.
Temp workers are a great deal for businesses, let’s face it. The companies get skilled workers, many of whom have been laid off from full-time positions in the same industry – but without long-term obligations or expensive benefits. They can also adjust the size of their workforces quickly to meet the needs of a changing economy without the cost or PR issues associated with layoffs.
RELATED: WALMART INCREASINGLY TURNS TO TEMP WORKERS
But for many employees, getting stuck in a temporary job without job security or benefits can be a frustrating experience, to say the least. Three-quarters of staffing employees have some interest in finding a full-time job.
Still, employment experts say temp jobs are a foot in the door for workers, and can often lead to an opportunity to “convert,” as the industry calls it, to a full-time position.
“We see people convert all the time,” says Dawn Fay, a district president with Robert Half International. “We certainly see more of it as the market gets better. A lot of individuals are getting hired into full-time jobs.”
If you’re a contract worker looking to convert, take these steps to show you’re full-time material.
1. Consider it an interview for a full-time job
You want to make the best possible first impression with an employer. “Treat the first interview as if you’re interviewing for a full-time position,” says Frank Dadah, general manager of the New York Financial Contract Staffing Division for WinterWyman, a staffing agency. “Do the same research prior to the interview, and ask detailed, thorough questions.” Then, once you’ve landed the temp work, remember that your supervisor is taking note of your work ethic, efficiency, and ability to fit in with the team’s culture.
2. Don’t ask for full-time work right away.
If you work for a staffing agency, it’s fine to tell the agency that your ultimate goal is to find a salaried gig – but don’t lead with that when you meet your new employer. Companies who think you’re only interested in full-time work may think you’re not going to give your full attention to a project – or they may worry that as soon as a full-time job comes along you’ll abandon your current role.
Instead, concentrate on performing your work beyond expectations. Come in early, stay late, and if you’ve got down time, ask if there’s anything else you can do, even if the work doesn’t fit into your assigned role. “Don’t go into the job thinking of yourself as a temp,” Dadah says. “Go in with the attitude of a new employee.” After a few weeks, if you’ve developed a rapport with your supervisor, mention you’d love to extend your contract and would be interested in full-time work if anything becomes available.
3. Add value
If you’ve worked in a similar role in other companies, you’ll likely bring a fresh perspective to a position. When you spot a process or method that could be more efficient or a potential sales opportunity, write down your ideas and present them to your supervisor. If you see a coworker struggling with a project, offer to help – you’ll be proving to the boss as well to coworkers that you’re integral to the team. “Do anything you can to make sure everyone knows you’re committed to helping the company grow,” says Tom Gimbel, president and chief executive officer of Chicago-based staffing firm LaSalle Network.
4. Network in and out of your department
Try to build relationships as quickly as possible. Go out of your way to be friendly with coworkers both inside and outside your department. Be as visible as possible within the company – introduce yourself to others rather than waiting for them to introduce themselves to you.
If you get to know new contacts in meetings or at a company happy hour, follow up with a connection on LinkedIn. Even if the department where you work doesn’t have openings, supervisors from other divisions might have a full-time position (or know of one) that could be a good fit.
5. If you get a job offer, expect to make less.
Here’s the rub: When it comes to wages, employers actually pay a premium to contract workers, since they can get specialized skills and usually don’t have to provide benefits or paid time off. “A lot of contract workers are surprised they have to take a big pay cut when they’re hired full-time,” says Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner of Cornerstone Search Group, an executive search firm in Parsippany, N.J. So be prepared for sticker shock when the salary offer comes along – but also be sure to calculate the value of health care coverage and other benefits once you go into negotiations.