Skip to Main Content
by Kemba Dunham | March 31, 2009


What's the best way for a temporary worker to land a permanent job?

Permanent jobs are tougher to land in the current, weak economy, ascost-conscious employers often favor temporary workers. But temps can do afew things to improve their odds of making their status more permanent.

Angie Buis, a Houston administrative assistant who was laid off fromEnron Corp. in late 2001, made the transition. She was hired at anatural-resources concern last May as an "indefinite temporary position" andbecame permanent last month. She says she proved her value to the companyby enthusiastically tackling any task she was offered. "I was just willingto do everything," she says. "My attitude was probably 90% of the reason Iwas brought on."

Employers agree that initiative and enthusiasm are key. Dianne Durkin,president of the Loyalty Factor, a Portsmouth, N.H., consulting firm thatcreates programs that enhance employee, customer and brand loyalty, saysshe often hires people on a temporary basis first to test whether theymight have staying power.

One temp she hired two years ago, who became permanent six months later,has become her "star employee," she says. While still a temp, the workerconstantly asked questions and really tried to understand how theorganization worked, she says. She once analyzed the phone bill, realizedthe company was spending too much money and researched money-savingoptions. "It's not only making the suggestion, but it's also taking actionto show what will produce results," Ms. Durkin says.

Temps can overdo it, though. Ms. Durkin says she got rid of a temp aftera week because the person tried to change everything right away withoutconsulting anyone. "If she had asked, we would have told her we had alreadytried some of her solutions and found they didn't work for us," she says.The goal is to blend in and add value to an organization, not uprootit.

Here are other considerations for temps who wish to becomepermanent:

Figure out what need your hiring filled in the organization. "Once youdo that, you can take your talents and present them as a solution to theproblem," says Orange, Calif., career coach Christine Edick.

Network within the company, establishing relationships not just withyour boss but with human-resource professionals and other managers andcolleagues in other departments. A "strategic network of people," saysWilliam J. Morin, a New York career coach, "will keep you in mind [forjobs] and keep you informed."

If you can, make an impact on the company's bottom line. This isparticularly key for struggling businesses. Come up with ways for thecorporation to save money so you "make yourself worth the money they'rehiring you for," Ms. Edick says.

Emphasize your own additional strengths. Many times, temps are broughtin to perform a specific, limited chore, so an employer won't be aware ofother skills a temp possesses. "You need to think of yourself as a brandand how will you make that brand distinctive from other brands," says LoisFrankel, who runs a Pasadena, Calif., coaching firm.

Don't get complacent. People shouldn't stay in a temp position longerthan a year, Mr. Morin advises. "The longer you stay in a temp capacity,the more you are chipping away at your chance of becoming a permanentemployee," he says, adding that temps should continue to pursueopportunities outside the company.

Remember, too, that even temp jobs that don't lead to anywhere can bevaluable, especially during a downturn.

Brian Weaver, a 41-year-old manager from Cary, N.C., who was laid offfrom WorldCom Inc. this year, this week started a contract job at aJacksonville, Fla., insurance concern for six months. He has left hisfamily behind temporarily but hopes to become a permanent staffer.

At the least, he says, the job provides him "a chance for resumebuilding, gives me a relationship with the company and brings some moneyinto the house."


Filed Under: Job Search

Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume

Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews