Dealing with Downtime in Temp Work | DCR Workforce Blog

Dealing with Downtime in Temp Work

One of the major arguments against temporary work is the period of forced inactivity between assignments. During these times, a worker may have no income, a difficult and insufferable situation for all but highly paid contingent labor. However, it is time to recognize that the world has moved on from lifetime employment to lifetime engagements.

Baby Boomers in the Workforce

Last June, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study of employment patterns for workers born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964).  These workers today are 49-51 years old, which are traditionally considered the years in which workers are at their peak in terms of experience, compensation, seniority and employment rate.  The results of the study may surprise you!

  • They held 11.3 jobs from age 18 to age 46. Nearly half of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 24.
  • The average time spent working for the same employer has also dramatically changed.  In the chart below, the BLS compared the percentage of workers who remained in a position for 1, 2, 5, 10, and 15 years.  While the tenure increases based on the age of the worker at the  time of hire, all age ranges showed that less than 50% of workers remain with an employer for two years!
  • Periods of unemployment are also increasing.

employement-tenureAccording to the Economists at the San Francisco Federal Reserve:

  • In the first few weeks after losing their jobs, about 3 in 10 (30%) people are able to find work.
  • But after about a year of being out of work, the chances of landing a job fall to just 1 in 10 per month.
  • 42.8% of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months.
  • What conclusion can we draw from all of this? Dismissing the possibility of temporary assignments out of fear of periods of unemployment may prove counter-productive and a poor choice in the long run. All employment options can result in employment gaps. In fact, carefully selected temporary assignments can actually accelerate career paths.

Another concern frequently raised is the impact contingent employment may have on an individual’s attractiveness as a candidate.  Many fear that temporary assignments will not be viewed as real work experience.  In reality, recruiters and employers are actually concerned about unexplained gaps in work experience. Short stints at supposedly temporary jobs are as much of a negative as a resume which shows huge gaps between jobs.

I’m Lovin’ It – Are You?

  • The secret to a successful career of temporary assignments is to determine the amount of desired ‘down time’ to then shape your experiences to maximize options for assignments that fit your desired work schedule.  Most importantly, be selective in choosing assignments and be productive. Prove your worth, while on the assignment. Did you carefully choose your profession, or did one of your early jobs put you on your current career path?  If you had it to do over, would you choose the same career?  Use temporary assignments to explore, testing different industries, company sizes, and roles.
  • Use down time topick up a new skill for the same industry or train for a whole new one.
  • Focus on creating anetwork and a support system, which could help to shorten the time between gigs. Don’t just join a professional association or a social networking group – get actively involved.
  • Establish your intellectual credentials. Teach a class or write a paper.
  • Use temp jobs as a means to an endand a phase in an overall career plan. Make sure each assignment adds an important skill – putting you higher on the learning curve – or add specific experience to your resume.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.