Temp work: myth vs reality

Learn from CareerBuilder the myths about temp work and why temp work may be right for you

Temporary work is a career option chosen by thousands of professionals each day. This arrangement can present a rich variety of engagements that allow you to hone existing skills and develop new ones, and it exposes you to a diverse set of individuals -- critical for building your network.

Working as a temporary professional also can ease financial concerns. You can afford to be more selective about the full-time opportunities you pursue if you are generating income through interim work.

And a temporary role may be ideal for professionals who want to spend more time with their families or focus on a hobby or other interest.

Some professionals fail to consider the option of interim work, however, largely because of persistent myths about what it does or doesn't entail. Here, we set the record straight about some of the most common misconceptions:

Myth: Temporary work is low-level work.
Reality: As the needs of businesses and workers have changed over the years, the temporary industry has evolved. Today, the fastest growth is occurring in professional and technical occupations, as both businesses and professionals from all backgrounds and skill levels have come to realize the benefits of having greater flexibility.

Professionals have embraced the consulting lifestyle because they can secure challenging, diverse assignments and receive competitive compensation while still maintaining some control over when, where and how much they work.

Myth: Working as an interim professional will hurt my prospects of getting hired on a full-time basis.
Reality: Quite the contrary. Many businesses view interim hiring as a way to evaluate individuals for full-time positions, and temp assignments often lead there. This may be especially true as companies hire again. Employers are still cautious about adding personnel. Yet, they realize they can't participate in a recovery if they're understaffed.

To bridge gaps, they're bringing in the most accomplished interim professionals they can find, and many companies are evaluating the skills and cultural fit of these individuals with an eye toward making them full-time employees if business conditions continue to improve.

Myth: Temporary work is short term, sporadic and low paying.
Reality: Although project consulting frequently offers the option of working fewer hours than a full-time role might require, professionals with sought-after skills usually find that they can work as much as they want. In fact, according to the American Staffing Association, 79 percent of temporary and contract employees work full time -- virtually the same percentage as the rest of the workforce. Also, temporary assignments can last from a few days to more than a year.

As to wages, many temporary positions pay on par with salaried ones, and individuals with the most sought-after skills can often command a premium. To attract the most highly skilled professionals, staffing firms offer competitive wages and benefits, which often include access to health insurance, vacation and holiday pay and even retirement plans.

Myth: You can't include temporary work on a résumé.
Reality: As the temporary industry has grown and expanded, interim assignments have come to be viewed more as high-level consulting projects than so-called "temp work." Hiring managers understand that project work provides valuable experience that can enhance a candidate's abilities.

Myth: If I work on a temporary basis, I can't continue my job search.
Reality: Depending on how much you choose to work, you may need to make some adjustments as to how and when you conduct your job search, but it shouldn't be too difficult. It may involve simply shifting your networking and research activities into the early morning or evening hours or possibly during your lunch break.

Also, keep in mind that your temporary assignment can also help you advance your job search. You never know when a position might open at the company where you're working, or others you meet during the course of your assignment may be willing to recommend you for a position they've heard about through their network.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/bloopers or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.