If you’ve been temping for a while, you know that contingent work can help you develop skills that will make you more attractive to permanent employers.
But what’s the best way to showcase that experience?
While the stigma once associated with contract work is a thing of the past, you’re not wrong to worry that employers may wonder about your level of commitment to full-time employment. You may have five, six or more meaty assignments under your belt that you’d like to show off … but you don’t want to look like a job hopper. At the same time, you don’t want to be dishonest or look as if you are covering something up.
So when describing your experiences as a temporary employee, whether in a resume, cover letter or interview, remember what you’ve learned from your social media outlets, like Instagram: sometimes the right filter can make all the difference. Just as you might try several filters before posting a profile pic to ensure you look your very best, explore strategies to make your work experience look its very best when showing it off to potential employers.
Experts offer a range of advice for job seekers seeking to transition from temporary to permanent employment.
First, prepare for the question, “why did you choose to work as a temporary employee?” This will certainly be useful in an interview; it’s also something you might refer to in a cover letter.
Employers know the job market; there’s no need to tell them you struggled to find permanent employment. Rather, focus on the circumstances and the value temporary jobs offered. “As my children gained independence, I wanted to transition back into the full-time workforce gradually.” Or “I was attracted by the opportunity to gain deeper knowledge of XYZ industry and acquire some skills before seeking more permanent employment.”
You see? Filters.
Next, devise a strategy for showing off your experience on your resume. Many people who have been working temporary assignments through a staffing agency wonder how to present these short, medium and long-term placements. Who should they list as the employer? How many assignments should you list? How should they be organized?
The answer, of course, depends on the individual. Find an organizing strategy that suits your history. Think of it as your filter.
You may choose to name the staffing agency as your employer, detailing your accomplishments at various assignments beneath it, possibly as bullet points. You don’t need to list all your assignments if there have been many; choose a few key jobs and name the companies and what you did for them, focusing on accomplishments and results. Working for one staffing agency over time shows you’re not a job hopper; you’re loyal. And repeated assignments demonstrate your success.
Equally valid is the choice to use a functional resume, organized by skill or type of work. Use a job title or category as a headline, then bullet assignments beneath it, again describing your contributions. Name the staffing agency after the company: “Company A, via Staffing Agency Name.” More than one assignment in a job category suggests depth of experience.
Have you had many, many assignments? You might choose a more narrative approach, organized by function and describing your skills and abilities, using as examples specific accomplishments at specific companies. That puts the focus on your demonstrated abilities, not the number of assignments over time.
Last, think about how you will present yourself in an interview. Your background as a successful temporary employee in a variety of situations shows you are adaptable and experienced in different workplace cultures and environments, and that you have acquired deep knowledge of an industry. You have nothing to apologize for. Recount your work experience with pride.
Finally, don’t forget that a staffing agency is your best partner as you make the transition to direct employment. It’s quite possible that the agency that has been placing you in temp assignments all this time can also help you find a more permanent workplace. Just as you know your best angle in photos, they know your assets and experience — as well as the skills that are most desired by employers. They know how to present your abilities in the best possible light.
Presenting job applicants’ experience to potential employers is what they do, whether the applicant is seeking temporary or permanent work. Ask a staffing agency what they can do for you. And say, “cheese”!
If you need help building a great team at your company, connect with the group at Harvard Resource Solutions. We provide the talented candidates your organization needs. Schedule a meeting with us at your earliest convenience.