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Some job seekers are hesitant to accept temporary or contract assignments because they are concerned if they commit to something short-term, they will miss out on opportunities for full-time assignments. This may be a bit short-sighted because many employers are now using staffing agencies (and sometimes internal recruiters) to “try before they buy” job candidates. Related: Transform Temp/Contract Work Into A Permanent Job In many cases, short-term assignments are being extended and even becoming full-time opportunities for some workers.

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Great news! You’ve landed either a contract or temp job, which suddenly has taken so much stress off of you from looking for a job. Now, you can pay the bills, settle in, and concentrate your focus on getting up to speed and making valuable contributions. But what’s the worst thing that can happen at this point? Becoming complacent in this moment of opportunity. But first, let’s be clear. Contract or temporary work does NOT guarantee a permanent job at the company in the future. It is exactly that: a stretch of employment that has a finite end to it, and you’re going to have to deal with an end point sooner or later. But despite not being a permanent employee, you have something vastly more powerful in your career arsenal right now than the unemployed job seekers:

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In the midst of the Great Recession, many workers have found themselves cobbling together short-term or temp jobs in order to pay the bills. These workers often become very concerned about how this work activity will appear on their resumes. If you're worried about how to address temp jobs on your resume, take heart—many people are in the exact same situation. The first thing you should know is the current economy has forced many workers to take jobs for which they are overqualified. It has also displaced many experienced, competent professionals from the workforce. Given this, the stigma once attached to taking a temporary job or a job beneath your qualifications has lessoned greatly. Hiring managers receive resumes all the time from people who are doing the best they can to make it. The most important thing they look for is proof a laid-off worker is being productive with his or her time—whether that’s through obtaining further education, volunteering in the community, freelancing, or working temporary or part-time positions. I recently worked with a client who had left the full-time workforce for 13 years in order to care of her special needs child. Although she seemed to view this period as a throwaway on her resume, the reality was she had started two successful businesses during that time and had obtained an additional professional certification as well. Rather than perceiving a hole in her resume for the time she’d spent raising her son, I saw an entrepreneur who was determined to provide for her family in the midst of very challenging circumstances. Likewise, showing temporary work on your resume instills among worthwhile hiring managers the same feelings of compassion. It demonstrates even when times are hard, you have the work ethic to do whatever you can to stay in the game. Hiring managers know there are just as many people competing for those temporary jobs as for their full-time positions—so your having one shows tenacity in and of itself. Wherever you are currently working, you’re contributing something to that company’s operations and bottom line. Including this work on your resume shows you’re a team player and a hard worker—and every company appreciates that. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Many job seekers look for full-time employment after spending a year or more at temporary or part-time jobs, sometimes working for several different agencies or volunteering their services. On their resume, they worry these experiences make them seem like job hoppers or undesirable full-time employees. In fact, part-time, temporary or volunteer work, especially work in your field or that keeps your skills fresh, shows your dedication and flexibility. It may broaden your appeal to companies in industries you never considered before if you include them the right way on your resume. In your resume, group these jobs under one title to create a unified history. Perhaps you’ve worked at several part-time jobs in restaurants as a waiter; you could group that experience under Part-Time Work in Restaurant Industry. If you worked for a temporary or contract agency, list the companies you worked for under your group title (Contract Engineer)—not the agencies. The experience you are highlighting is the valuable experience of working for multiple industries. You might be able to group your temporary, contract or part-time jobs as Freelance or Consulting Positions. You are contributing your job skills in exactly that way: you go from one company to the next, complete each job efficiently and then move on again. As for volunteer positions, companies are very aware of the leadership skills, teamwork and commitment that volunteer work requires. Create a section of your resume for Community Service and give yourself credit. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com. Dear J.T. & Dale: Does a temporary job hurt your career? I am currently unemployed and need to pay the bills until I find a permanent job. My concern is I will be committing career suicide if I take something temporary. I know a few individuals who hold doctorates in engineering who used to work for large Fortune 200 companies and who were laid off and took jobs like driving a bus or stocking shelves. They think they have been unable to get a job in their professions because of these temporary jobs. — Pat J.T.: Let's start by facing up to the financial realities: A good rule of thumb is that for every $10,000 you want in salary, it will take a month of searching. So, if you're looking to make $80,000, plan on an eight-month search. However, given this economy, I'm adding two additional months to the old rule of thumb, so it's 10 months for the $80,000 example. Most people don't have the kind of savings required to keep themselves afloat that long. My suggestion to professionals in your situation is to always try to find freelance work in your field, earning some income by leveraging the skills you want to bring to your next full-time job. Dale: First, Pat, I'd call what you're describing a stopgap job, as opposed to a temporary one; after all, a temporary job could be in your field. As for your question, it isn't that there's anything wrong with driving a bus or stocking shelves; what's wrong is being seen as someone who couldn't find any contract or consulting work that would make use of your high-level education and experience. Taking an unrelated job means you aren't just out of work, but out of the field, falling behind — and that's what makes re-entry more difficult. So, take a lesser job if you have to, but do some consulting work, too, even if that "consulting" consists of helping a nonprofit or advising your cousin's small business. Find a way to stay in the field, even if you're also stocking shelves. jt-dale-logoJeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc. Photo credit: Shutterstock