Taking a temporary assignment — pros and cons

March 9, 2010 at 3:42 am Leave a comment

Here’s a little pop quiz: While job hunting, what is a way to make some extra money, gain some targeted experience, keep your skills fresh and perhaps get your foot in the door to a permanent job? No, the answer is definitely not one of those work-at-home deals (scams). It’s a temporary assignment, which organizations — especially in journalism — are increasingly offering as a way to find help for particular projects and to try out prospective employees to see if they would be a good fit.

Though this is different than temporary, often part-time work that one can find through a temp agency (See Nov. 18 post, “The temptation of temp work”) job seekers should recognize up front that any long-term assignment will take time and energy away from a hunt for permanent work. And the pay is often lower than what one would hope to command in a permanent job. Yet experts say that an interesting temporary assignment with a reputable organization may be just the ticket to helping polish your skills and expand your network — and absolutely can lead to a permanent job. As one journalist currently holding down a temporary reporting assignment puts it: “A permanent job is better than a temporary job. But a temporary job definitely is better than no job.”

I asked this reporter and several other Washington journalists who are currently involved in such assignments for their assessment of whether it makes sense to take on temporary work — where one needs to be there every day, this is not freelance work — while on a job hunt. They overwhelmingly responded affirmatively, and one journalist credited such work with helping her recently land a full-time job. Yet they also mentioned definite downsides that one should consider before accepting such an assignment.

The advantages to a temporary assignment, in their view, in addition to a paycheck include:

*Gaining experience, often in a new area. One reporter is learning a new beat in a specialty area that is complementing her Hill and political reporting experience. Another used his wealth of editing and management experience to help a start-up organization train and edit reporters in a specialty area that was new to him. They cited the opportunity to gain new skills and experience as a big plus of their temporary assignments. Another reporter was able to use a temporary assignment to get her “press credentials back and get back on the Hill and into the mix again. I felt reinvigorated after months of being away.” Hiring experts say that keeping one’s skills fresh and not getting rusty is another good reason to accept a temporary assignment.

*Making new connections that can help you in the future, whether with this organization or for jobs at other companies. Many job seekers — even when busy with freelance work — can feel isolated and alone, especially if they worked for years in busy, noisy newsrooms. Taking a temp assignment gets you back into the swing of things in an office and allows you to expand your network — which is key to any successful job hunt.

*Creating a possible pathway to a permanent job. Sometimes the best way to cut through the crowd applying for work at an organization in which you’re interested is to take a temporary job and let them see what you can do. As one of the reporters with a temporary assignment put it: “They seem more likely to take a chance on someone who doesn’t necessarily have a particular specialty if it’s only a temporary job. Then, once you’re in the door, you  have a chance to wow them with your skills and demonstrate how quickly you can catch on to new topics.” Also, being at the company, you’re going to hear about openings more quickly than those outside, and your new colleagues typically are much more willing to go to bat for you with management than they would for an outsider.

*Allowing you flexibility you wouldn’t have with a permanent job. For job seekers who want some time to contemplate the next chapter in their career — this is especially true of journalists thinking about leaving the profession — a temporary assignment can be an ideal way to work without having to commit to a long-term job. As one editor put it about his recent temporary editing assignment, “The temporary nature of the job allowed me to keep my options open as I asked myself: Do I ever want to work full-time again? I still don’t know the answer to that but the temp job meant that I haven’t had to decide yet.” Also, temporary assignments may have flexible hours and because you are not a full-time employee with benefits, you may be able to negotiate long weekends or even take off on a vacation or free-lance assignment, something which is often not possible for a new employee in a full-time job.

Yet these temp workers mentioned some disadvantages as well. These include:

*Relatively low pay and a lack of benefits. Though one of the reporters said that the pay in her temporary assignment was more than what she was receiving in unemployment benefits, she is putting in long hours (and in most cases when one takes on such a position they have to give up their unemployment check) and not receiving benefits. Consider how much you’ll be making an hour and how much this experience is worth in terms of a future job before you sign on to a temp position.

*The difficulty of conducting a search for full-time work after working all day in the office at a temporary job. This is akin to workers frustrated with their current full-time jobs who are looking for another job — they have to do it on their own time. While the employer presumably recognizes a temp worker is seeking a full-time job, they aren’t going to want you to be doing so while on the clock for them. So you’ll need to be organized and figure out ways to conduct your search around your temporary assignment, which can be tricky. A temporary assignment can also be a distraction from your job search so you’ll have to be especially organized and focused when you’re handling job-hunting duties.

*Trouble commanding respect from some colleagues — and some managers — who may view you as “just temporary” and therefore don’t give you the same level of training or guidance that they do other workers. Before accepting such an assignment, it’s a good idea to research what the organization’s experience has been with temporary workers. If they routinely offer these and seem comfortable with temporary workers that should give you some confidence that this will likely be a comfortable experience. If they haven’t done this a lot and people within the organization seem uncomfortable with it and not particularly welcoming, you should reconsider whether this is a place where the benefits of a temporary assignment will outweigh the negatives.

*I’m linking to the following piece on poynter.org because it reminded me — as I think it will many of us who have spent our careers in newsrooms — of the human cost of all the “reorganizations” and “downsizings…” and how our profession and our readers have lost something with each cut. But hope remains:

Why I Still See Ghosts in the Newsroom
*As always, some leads to consider, with an emphasis today on communications and public affairs positions:
*The Mitre Corp. has an opening for a communications/public affairs professional in its office in McLean:
Communications Lead – Public Affairs
The Mitre Corporation – McLean, VA
Job Title Communications Lead – Public Affairs Location VA: McLean Profession Communications Department… you will serve as a communications lead within MITREs…
From washingtonpost.com


*The American Institute of Architects in D.C. is looking for a director of federal regulatory relations:
Dir., Federal Regulatory Relations & Coun
The American Institute of Architects – Washington, DC
and the architecture profession… KSAs) and Training and Experience: Considerable knowledge of the… through coordination and communication of delegated…
From washingtonpost.com


*The Agency for International Development (AID) has an opening in D.C. for a communications advisor:
Communications Advisor
Agency For International Development – Washington, DC
and communications mechanism. It is the authoritative channel for official communications between USAID… experience, and training you report relative to this… $105,211 – $136,771 a year
From usajobs.gov

*WESTAT in Rockville needs a proposal editor/coordinator:
Proposal Editor/Coordinator
WESTAT – Rockville, MD
Editor must have a bachelor’s degree and 2 or more years of experience in a fast-paced proposal environment. Candidates must demonstrate excellent communication
From WESTAT

*Hanley Wood in D.C. has an opening for a managing editor for its Residential Architect and Custom Home magazines:
Managing Editor- Residental Architect and Custom Home
Hanley Wood – Washington, DC
for a Managing Editor working on our Residential… abilities; and assignment editor experience. The managing editor handles all first edits and final proofs…
From Hanley Wood

*And last but not least, courtesy of mediabistro.com, the World Bank Group in D.C. has a contract opening for a Web content manager/editor/writer:
Publication or Company World Bank Group
Industry Corporate/Institutional/Technical Writing, Internet/Online/New Media
Salary Very Competitive
Job Duration Other
Job Location Washington, DC USA
Job Requirements Introduction

Financial and Private Sector Development Knowledge Management (FPDKM) is the knowledge management hub of the World Banks Financial and Private Sector Development Vice Presidency.

Web-based Products. FPDKM manages a large number of websites with several thousand pages of content, including:

Doing Business Database — Downloadable indicators benchmarking the performance of business regulations in more than 183 countries. Topics include starting a business, dealing with licenses, employing workers registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and closing a business.

Enterprise Surveys Database — Data on the investment climate in 118 countries, based on surveys of more than 100,000 firms. Topics include firms’ perceptions, infrastructure & services, finance, government policies, conflict resolution & crime, capacity & innovation, and labor relations.

Financial & Private Sector Development — This site includes a public policy journal, toolkits for reform leaders, private sector development blog, and serves as a portal to the worlds largest collection of data on financial and private sector development.

Remittance Prices Worldwide This website provides data on the cost of sending and receiving small amounts of money from one country to another.

Women in Business Currently in development, this web site will provide research, data, analysis and country comparison of the gender-relevant laws as they relate to women in the workforce.

FPDKM also manages new media initiatives, including:

Doing Business on Facebook. A recently launched social networking tool with almost 8,000 fans.

Twitter profile. A recently launched microblogging effort with hundreds of followers.

Private Sector Development blog. The original (and largest) World Bank Group blog.

Job Description

FPDKM has an immediate need for a highly experienced web content manager, writer and blogger. Candidates must be able to demonstrate extensive experience in these areas:

Writing for blogs. He/she must be able to demonstrate the ability to write snappy blog postings on current issues in Financial and Private Sector Development and network extensively to solicit contributions from experts around the World Bank Group using search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.

Developing and managing social media campaigns on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Writing for the web. Demonstrated ability to write short feature stories that will draw in human audiences and result in high rankings by search engines.

Write, solicit contributions, package and edit various other VPU communications tools, such as media advisories, press releases, invitations, e-newsletters, etc.

Qualifications

Bachelors degree (MS or MBA preferred) in journalism, economics or business

Demonstrated interest in finance and economics

Ability to write in journalistic style

Hiring

This is a contractual position without benefits. The contract may run up to 150 days with the possibility of renewal.

About Our Company This position is within the Financial and Private Sector Development Vice Presidency of the World Bank Group. Learn about the institution: http://go.worldbank.org/3QT2P1GNH0.
Good luck on the hunt today!
Jodi
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