Permanent State of Mind

How you can use temporary work as a bridge to full-time employment.

March 17, 2011
from Accountemps

Employers today are cautious, strategic and selective in their hiring practices. They want assurances that a job candidate is an ideal fit for the role before extending an offer.

One way organizations are attempting to learn more about potential employees is to engage them first on a temporary basis. It’s not hard to see why. By observing a person’s on-the-job performance and personality firsthand, hiring managers gain insights they simply can’t get from a résumé, recommendation letter or even an interview.

For professionals who’ve been out of work for extended periods, temporary arrangements provide an opportunity to get back on the employment track, earn an income and expand their networks. Here are some tips that can help you turn project work into a permanent position:

Seek Help from an Expert

The first step is reaching out to a staffing firm specializing in accounting and finance and telling the staffing manager you’re particularly interested in “temp-to-hire” assignments. A reputable service can introduce you to unadvertised opportunities, focusing on roles that have the best potential for conversion to full-time employment. According to the American Staffing Association, 80 percent of managers at companies that have used staffing firms say they offer a good way to find people who can become permanent employees; and 88 percent of staffing employees feel temporary or contract work made them more employable.

Strive to Make an Immediate Impact

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” might be one of the most overused business clichés, but that’s because the statement is so true. When you start a temporary job, set the tone by looking for ways to “wow” the employer from day one. Clarify with your onsite supervisor what will be your top priorities, responsibilities and goals and then hit the ground running. Demonstrating initiative early on and maintaining a constant can-do attitude throughout your assignment is key.

Act (and Look) the Part

Adopt a full-time mindset instead of viewing yourself as “just a temp.” Carry yourself with a quiet confidence, wear a smile and dress a step above of what’s expected of you. In short, act like you belong — and that you want to be there. In addition, while you’ll likely get an immediate sense of whether it’s a laid-back or buttoned-up environment, pay attention to the finer points of the prevailing corporate culture, too. Are mobile devices brought into meetings? Are people gregarious in general or reserved? Astutely observe and then adapt your work style and behavior accordingly.

Let Your Soft Skills Shine

In the accounting profession, attention to detail is obviously critical to success, but be aware that employers aren’t just evaluating your functional expertise. How smoothly you work with managers, co-workers and clients is high on the list of characteristics determining whether you’d be a suitable long-term fit. Put simply, people like to work with people they like. Well-developed interpersonal skills can tip the scales in your favor.

Be a Savvy Team Player

You need to walk a fine line in your attempts to go above and beyond the call of duty. Efforts to showcase your drive and work ethic can backfire if you step on toes in the process. When an overworked coworker requests assistance, be quick to volunteer a helping hand, but respect others’ territory. Even sincere attempts to “pitch in” on other people’s projects can prompt a negative reaction unless you ask first. What you consider a well-intentioned gesture might be regarded as overstepping your bounds or an attempt to steal the spotlight.

Make As Many Connections As Possible

Don’t wait for people to introduce themselves. Be bold. Make the rounds to begin establishing rapport with those you’ll be working with, even if it’s in a limited capacity. Get to know employees outside of the department as well. Go out for coffee with your group when asked, attend company events if invited and don’t be afraid to strike up conversations at the water cooler. The more internal advocates you have in your corner, the more support and information you’ll gain about potential opportunities.

A standout performance during a temporary assignment does not guarantee you’ll secure a full-time job. There are many factors beyond your control. But continually working hard and aiming to prove how indispensable you are only helps your cause. Even if there doesn’t appear to be a longer-term opportunity on the horizon at the company, you can still gain valuable experience, references and connections. And, if there is an uptick in business that warrants new hiring, you’re positioned in the right place at the right time. You’ll be top of mind because you’re a known quantity who’s already proven yourself.

Accountemps is one of the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 350 offices worldwide and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.