Accepting temporary assignments
By: Robert Half
Robert Half, CPA and founder of Robert Half International
Inc., the world's leader in specialized staffing and the parent company
of Robert Half and Accountemps.
One of our offices received a letter from a college graduate looking to
launch his accounting career. What I found interesting about this letter
was his approach to getting started. He asked that we find him temporary
accounting positions through our Accountemps division, thereby allowing
him to sample a variety of work situations before honing in on a permanent
I found this to be enlightening. By accepting temporary assignments in
which he can use his newfound accounting training, he will accomplish
his goal of having exposed himself to myriad industries and professional
situations. He'll see how different accounting departments and managers
function, what they expect of employees, and how his education might best
be used to forge a long and successful career.
Moreover, there's another positive side to this young man's decision to
work as a temporary employee for a while.
I can't think of a better way to land a plum full-time position than to
demonstrate, on the job, to an employer what you have to offer. The increasing
number of temporary employees being offered full-time positions bears
Think about it.
Every employer takes a certain risk when hiring a new employee. The resume
may look good. The interviews might go well. But, you really don't know
how someone will work out until they're on the job for a period of time.
Temporary employees have the opportunity to show what they're made of.
Their ability to interact with others is demonstrated in a tangible way.
Work habits can be observed by the employer, rather than simply speculated
In a word, temporary employees prove themselves to employers on a day-to-day
basis. If an employer likes what he/she sees, taking the step to offer
this candidate a full-time position becomes far less risky.
It is also important to note that the temporary-employment industry has
No longer do companies rely upon temporaries only to fill gaps during
busy times of the year, or to substitute for absent employees. Today,
companies, large and small, depend on specialized temporary employees
to augment their full-time staffs throughout the year. Downsizing has,
of necessity, trimmed permanent staffs. Yet, when workloads peak, productivity
must be maintained. Many forward-looking companies now build into their
yearly budgets the use of temporary help, especially at the professional
level, for heavy work periods or special projects. The educated and skilled
men and women, who do become hired on a temporary basis to lend their
knowledge, are on a par professionally with the full-time accountants
with whom they work.
Because professional-level, specialized temporaries now constitute a major
segment of America's contingent workforce, the prestige of these individuals
ranks high. In a survey commissioned by Robert Half International, 78%
of executives said they view consistent temporary work on a resume as
being comparable to having held a full-time job. For a variety of reasons,
a growing number of accounting and finance professionals, with years of
full-time working experience in the field, have chosen temporary work
as a full-time option. Most cite the flexible hours and variety of assignments
as the major benefits.
Accountants just out of college are understandably in a different phase
of their careers. Most are anxious to accept full-time positions in accounting.
Still, the young man whose letter prompted this column offers an interesting
alternative. Accepting temporary accounting assignments, while contemplating
full-time career choices, not only offers a diversity of experiences,
it also generates income while the search for a permanent job is underway.
Skills learned in college are put to immediate use. The culture of the
diverse workplace is revealed and experienced. Interaction with professional
colleagues is established.
And, most important to the letter writer, there is the opportunity to
see what's out there, while making a contribution to the profession he
studied hard to enter. It is an effective means of carefully evaluating
one or more positions before signing on with a company full-time.
I suppose it all comes down to what I've advocated for decades: Be open
to any and all opportunities; do not have rigid, predisposed notions of
what to do with one's career and life; and begin a career with the attitude
that all professional experiences--of any duration--are valuable.