From perm to...temp?
July 10, 2015 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm wondering if it would make sense to quit my permanent job in order to temp, given my circumstances. Also, any information about what it's like to temp in 2015 would be helpful.

My circumstances are:
In my current job, at my current job title, with no upward mobility, for over a decade. I feel this harms me because it makes me come across on paper as someone who is very set in their ways.

Not happy in my current field or job, but not sure what I'd like to do instead. Absolutely no jobs in my current field; no sense in trying to find one of those.

Diligently applying to jobs over the last several years with only a couple of disastrous interviews to show for it. Very interpersonally awkward and thus, not good at interviewing.

Applying for jobs that are all over the map--because I'm not sure what I'd like to do instead in makes it difficult to focus in on one particular career field to aim towards.

In search of a job that is just a job rather than a calling or all-consuming passion.

Not in need of a huge amount of money though stable income eventually would be the goal.

No particular special skills. I can learn new computer programs with relative ease. I can also be very professional-seeming when dealing with customers, although I get anxious if the exchange veers away from basic pleasantries into more unscripted territory.

So, would it ever make sense to quit my permanent job to test the waters at various places through temping? How would that work, exactly, in terms of giving notice at my job and starting a temp job?

I am expecting to get a lot of pushback for this question, so please note that I would not be asking it if I were not feeling trapped and miserable in my current job. I also don't have plans to do this soon, but thought that it would be one more option to explore. I thought it would give me exposure to a wider variety of possible jobs and thus help me start figuring out what might be a better match for me than my current job.

Thank you.
posted by silly me to Work & Money (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What about benefits with your current job? Health insurance, 401k, vacation? Temp jobs frequently don't have those.
posted by k8t at 7:56 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't have a specific answer to your question, but you might find an answer in the archives at Ask A Manager. The bonus is that you'll find great tips on managing your worklife (as well as great tips about job searches, resumes, and interviews).
posted by Amy NM at 8:03 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

This isn't a great idea. You say you've been looking over the last several years with only a couple interviews to show for it. Just keep at it--interviewing is a skill that can be learned over time.

And besides, at temping, you generally have to interview with every single client that would like to take you on. The interviews may be more cursory, but if you're trying to temp at a comparable skill level to your current one, you'd expect to have to interview.

There are also temp-to-hire jobs that you'll see listed on job boards. These would still be dicey, but at the very least you could apply to them directly and see whether or not they'd take you. Then you can decide whether the risk is worth it.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 8:14 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have temped off and on for the last 10 years or so, temping being how I both quickly advanced in my career, as well as how I got 3/4 of my jobs. I am an accountant, so I have a very easily transferrable temp skillset. I'll be honest with you, temping is hard work, and it requires a specific sort of personality. You need to show up every day totally ON if you want to be really successful at it. Often temps are brought in to fill a hole when another employee has been let go, and you have to deal with their coworkers feelings about this while they act hostile to you. The pay is awful to decent, depending on the needs for your skills. I'd make sure you have a plan for benefits and vacation and how you will manage that if you go this route. Temping has given me a lot of exposure to a lot of work experience I wouldn't otherwise have, but it's hard and often frustrating work, and I think it's an important balance to weigh in your decision.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 8:14 AM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've temped on and off for the past 8 or 9 years. The problem you'll face with temping is that for every gig that comes along that's actually cool you will have to go through several crappy gigs doing stuff that you do not want to do.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 8:15 AM on July 10, 2015

If you're in the US and have benefits that include health insurance and paid time off, I wouldn't recommend leaving it behind without something else to replace it. The situation's better as of 2014 than it's ever been if you're a temp who doesn't have parents or a spouse to share their insurance, but it's still not great.

I haven't had a permanent, full-time job with benefits in over a decade in spite of consistent temp work (though some of those temp jobs have made me feel trapped and miserable.) It isn't an especially good situation as far as planning for the future goes, and I'm desperately hoping to get converted to Real Employee status at my current job (which I love.)

It's not going to do you any harm to call up your local agencies and ask to meet with them, though. They can tell you about what sorts of jobs they're likely to be able to find for you, what the pay range is, and whether any of them are temp-to-perm (this is sometimes falsely advertised, but it's a good place to aim.) Be ready to take various software tests depending on what agency you're using and what jobs you're looking for (and try past temping posts here for more on preparing for those.) You might be able to swing some day labor gigs while you're still working your current job, depending on schedule.

Good luck -- trapped and miserable sucks no matter whether it's temp or perm, and sometimes it really is worth quitting a job that's making your life hell. Just try to be sure you're not putting yourself in an even worse situation (unemployment without any pay at all plus a departure that's not the easiest one to explain to future employers).
posted by asperity at 8:23 AM on July 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Very interpersonally awkward and thus, not good at interviewing.

Temp jobs are multiple-month-long interviews. I have certainly lost temp jobs because my (somewhat odd) personality did not mesh, despite doing a great job at the actual work assignments. I strongly suggest getting substantial interview practice and continuing to try for another permanent job.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:18 AM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

What does "diligently applying" mean? If you're ready to move on, shoot for 5-6 applications per week. Get some assistance with your resume, if you think you could do with it.

Work on improving your interviewing skills. Awkwardness is a liability in temping, I'm afraid. And the whole setup with temping makes any existing awkwardness worse - you're not really part of the team, for e.g; people do treat you differently than salaried staff. You have to work continually to impress people in the hopes they'll like you enough to take you on.

Not happy in my current field or job, but not sure what I'd like to do instead. Absolutely no jobs in my current field; no sense in trying to find one of those.

Temping is not like a buffet. You will not get to sample entirely different lives. If you're not going to be using your existing skillset, and aren't picking up a new one before you try, you'll just be doing admin in a bunch of strange offices, worrying about health insurance, worrying about making people like you enough to keep you, worrying about your next gig. Odds are if they do like you, they'll keep you as a temp, because it's cheaper for them. That's the bottom line, that's why there are (I think now) more new low-quality temp jobs than there are new permanent jobs.

See a career counsellor and think about other experience you can pick up (through work or night courses) for a switch to a permanent job that makes sense.

tl;dr: really bad idea in 2015.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:00 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar situation in terms of what I want as I job-hunt. But your lack of specialization is unpopular. You'll be more successful if you seem to be drawn to a specific industry. It will also help you if you examine what you like about your current and previous jobs - do you want to work with the public, a team, hardly anybody? Do you like working with numbers? Do you want to do similar tasks, or have new stuff all the time?
posted by theora55 at 10:32 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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