Some commentators are now arguing that a fundamental shift has occurred in the U.S. economy where temporary has become the new permanent. Whereas temporary work has traditionally been a leading indicator of an economic recovery, now it appears that many companies are using temporary workers as a new way of doing business.
The following Q&A answers some important questions about thriving in this new world of work:
Why the rising interest? Some people are interested in project-based work because they like the flexibility of it. They are not tied down to one office for a lengthy period of time as is typical with a permanent position. Also, some employees prefer not to become engaged in office politics, so project work suits them because they know that they are there only until the project ends.
The other main reason that more employees have turned to project work is because it is what is available in a tight job market. Many employers are very reluctant to hire permanent employees, so they turn to temporary employees whom they can let go easily if and when their services are no longer needed.
What are the necessary qualifications? This of course varies by field. But in this competitive job market it only makes sense to not just meet the minimum qualifications for the position that you are applying for, but exceed them. So if an employer asks for a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, you will usually be more competitive if you have a master’s. If the employer states that a certification is preferred, you need to have it even though it is not an absolute requirement. Employers can afford to pick the cream of the crop, so you need to show that you are highly qualified for the position.
What are the best professions for temp work? Temp work has become a part of virtually all professions these days, but the professions that are most suited to temp work are those that have work that is easily done on a project basis. Basically all professions within the IT field meet this criterion. But of course CEOs, traveling nurses, and accountants can all find temporary work. Temp work has become ubiquitous.
What does it take to be successful? Some key characteristics to perform well in this type of work are flexibility and being a quick study. You may not have the exact same tasks every day, so being flexible is important. You will also need to be able to go into a new environment and pick up very quickly on how things are done there and be able to apply your skills without a huge learning curve. Temp workers are expected to make a contribution to the organization very quickly since they are there for a limited period of time.
Are there any types of people for whom project-based work is a bad fit? If you are not self directed and need someone to tell you exactly what to do and when to do it, being a supertemp may be a bad fit for you. Companies do not usually invest the same amount of time and energy into temp workers as they do with permanent employees, especially as far as training is concerned. So you need to be able to take general directions and figure out how to accomplish your job with a minimum of resources.