Temp Jobs Can Be Your Ticket to a Full-Time Gig

By Vickie Elmer
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marni Tamayo left a permanent job to take a contract gig in hopes of eventually landing the position she really wanted.

She aimed to get back to a corporate marketing and advertising role, and the position through Aquent, a temp firm for marketing and creative services, looked enticing. Tamayo thought Booz Allen had an "excellent reputation" as an employer and had been interested in working there. This time, she interviewed and in July started a one-year contract post in the brand creative services department.

"I just put my best foot forward. I treated it as if I were a permanent employee," said Tamayo, who lives in the District and took this, her first temp job, after 10 years in staff marketing communications positions.

Temping has long been considered a back door to prestigious employers' payrolls, a way to prove your talents and land a full-time job, as Tamayo did in December. In these times, temp jobs have other uses -- earning cash or credentials, filling in gaps in expertise or filling time between full-time jobs.

Many temp jobs have evaporated in recent months, with a 27 percent reduction, or 644,000 jobs nationwide lost from March 2008 to March 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Beltway is "somewhat insulated," and staffing firms that place in government agencies and key contractors may see some increased demand from federal bailout programs, said Robin Mee, past president of the Capital Area Staffing Association and president of Mee Derby & Co., which recruits people to work in staffing companies.

"It's a wonderful way to get working fast," Mee said. "Taking a temporary job is a great transition point" after a layoff.

Begin by finding a few temp firms that match your career goals, profession and interests.

"Go to a temp agency that is aligned with what you do," said Pauline Tomko, Aquent's area manager in Reston. They have connections to organizations for which you want to work.

"Résumés are sitting in piles and piles of candidates," Tomko said. A good temp recruiter can sell you directly to hiring managers.

Develop a professional presence. "You need to have a great résumé. The résumé is your door-opener," Mee said.

Do your homework before you head to the agency -- know their job openings and the training they offer. You may even want to research the person you're seeing, just as you would before any other interview.

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