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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 job.

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 me out.

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 upon.

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 changed dramatically.

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.

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