From temp gig to dream job

Once she got over her prejudice against temp agencies, Allison Riney got hired as a full-time marketing manager.

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By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

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NEW YORK ( -- For those on the hunt for a new job, temping may feel like a last resort. But some determined professionals are finding it's a way to upgrade their careers.

Allison Riney, 24, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, relocated to Houston for a marketing job last year, but was laid off last September, shortly after starting.

Without much experience on her résumé, or any leads, she moved back to Pennsylvania in May to be closer to her family and primary network. Still, her job search reaped little results.

By October, a family friend suggested she try a local temp agency for leads, an option she had been reluctant to try. "Initially I was hesitant to go the temp agency route," Riney explained, "because of the stigma that it would be mostly secretarial jobs and nothing that would lead to a real career."

But with no alternatives, Riney went anyway. A few days later the agency asked if she was willing to take a one day data-entry job at a small marketing firm nearby. She agreed. After that, "they asked me to come back the next day and I'm still there."

Her new bosses at Monetate Inc., in West Conshohocken, Pa., had noted her work ethic right away and took her aside to discuss a future with the company. "They offered me the opportunity to pursue different positions within the company," Riney said. She expressed her interest in marketing and this month, they hired her as a full-time marketing manager.

Not only did Riney's temp agency get her in the door, they also helped her negotiate a full-time salary with benefits.

"I am so lucky to have gone to that temp agency when I did, and am on my way to having my dream job," she said.

Riney says now she tells everyone who will listen about how successful her experience has been.

"It might not be the most glamorous way to go," she acknowledges, "but you never know what kind of opportunities are there."

Getting a foot in the door

A temp job can not only bridge the gap between permanent positions but also allow job seekers to gain skills and experience in new industries and sample potential career changes. Often, temporary positions also lead to long-term jobs.

Eighty-eight percent of temporary workers say that temp or contract work made them more employable and 80% of employers who use temp agencies say they offer a good way to find people who can become permanent employees, according to a study by the American Staffing Association, an industry group in Alexandria, Va.

Although temping may seem like a step down, it can actually be a great way to gain access to a variety of employers, according to Melanie Holmes, a vice president at employment services firm Manpower.

"Temp help services have access to virtually all the employers in the community," Holmes said.

Holmes herself began her career as a temp at Manpower 28 years ago. "I am a firm believer, because of my experience, that a terrific way to get a job is to register with a temporary help service," she said.

Each year about 40% of Manpower's workers find permanent employment through their temporary placements, Holmes said.

There is an incentive for the agency too, since staffing firms generally make a commission for providing a temporary worker's services and a percentage of the worker's salary if they are hired full time.

For job seekers interested in temping, Holmes recommends that they first consider if there's a particular industry or company they want to work for and then register with the temp agency that can best meet those needs.

Unlike Riney's preconception, not all temp agencies are geared to administrative work. Some specialize in such diverse fields as marketing, finance and information technology.

"Once you are in the door as a temp at a company, make every effort to show your best side," Holmes advised, including being on time, dressing appropriately and asking to take on additional projects.

"Make sure that your good work ethic shows," she said, which is ultimately the key to getting hired. "Once you are in the door they see you, it's much better than putting a résumé in the mail."

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