Take Temp Work to Nab a Permanent Job

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Stuart Coleman, general manager of contracting for the New England region of staffing firm Winter, Wyman Financial, says that the strong uptick in contract financial and accounting jobs is an excellent indicator of more good things ahead.

We've seen a spike in temporary financial contracting. For each of the past three months the number of job orders in this space is up 25 percent month-over-month. The common theme we hear from financial services firms is that they can't get a solid head count on permanent positions, so they go with temporary workers - and they are able to get them at a big discount. If you're not working at 10 percent below your previous pay, then it is because you don't want to. There is work out there.

This is the leading edge of the hiring front, and we feel this turnaround is real and sustainable - it's just more gradual.

Financial services firms are very streamlined. Now that the Dow is up over 10,000, there is a lot of volume that needs to be processed, but they're not sure about the stability of the market so it doesn't make sense to hire permanent staff only to lay them off in six months. Larger financial services firms need skilled labor to process expenses, settle trades and do the operational pieces - not just clerks.

Don't Expect to Earn Your Previous Peak Pay

Between November and the first week of February we've had 258 job orders come in, and half pay below $20 per hour. These include clerk positions, analysts, staff accountants, accounts payable and receivable and payroll jobs. To see half of our business at that level is extraordinary - firms are taking advantage of the market by paying low wages.

The other half is a wide range of contract work paying $35 per hour and up. These are for very big important projects requiring a wide range of very specific expertise which could include compliance, marketing and communications and comptroller duties. I'm seeing people take 35 percent percent pay cuts in this space just to keep busy - which is a good strategy. It is a good idea to fill your time, stay sharp, make some contracts and pay some bills until something permanent comes in. It can be a real challenge if a future employer asks you about a one-year gap on your resume. That can be a big question mark for an employer.

Contract Work Can Be a Stepping-stone

Lots of people are taking short-term contract work with the hopes of getting hired on full-time within that organization. This is a solid strategy if you are placed in a position aligned with your career goals. But if you take something three or four pay grades below, then that is not a good fit.

The other thing we're seeing is companies finding a demand for higher-level permanent positions, but are opting for a consultant on a six-month before determining whether the market warrants committing to an individual or doing a search for a position with a $100,000 or $150,000 salary.

My advice to job seekers is to be creative and flexible - take a three month contract to stay in the game and network. Take those interviews and phone calls even if they don't seem that great. It helps you stay sharp and focused.

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