How a temp role can lead you down the right career path

Career changes are a hot topic right now, with the global pandemic forcing employees to think about what they really want from their work life, and the emergence of new technologies such as AI throwing the jobs market into flux. 

Michael Page’s new Page Pulse survey revealed a ‘ten-year career itch’, with 31 being the age most workers switch career paths. 

Overall, 26% of workers are considering a career change in the not-too-distant future, while 44% have already made the leap to something new. 

What is driving this desire for change? 

One in three said they made a change as they wanted to pursue a career that offered better opportunities to increase their earnings, while 32% said they wanted a role they felt more passionate about. A better work-life balance (19%) and changing paths post-redundancy (15%) were also significant motivators. 

However, changing career paths is not always simple, with qualifications and work experience often required. Indeed, the survey revealed the average time frame for planning a career move is 13 months, and 25% of career switchers completed online courses to do so, while 14% went back to university. And 42% self-funded their training. 

However, there is another way to make a career change, which jobseekers are increasingly savvy to. 

Taking on a temp job in your new chosen industry is often an easier way to gain skills and experience - and vitally, to get your foot in the door. It can also help to plug a financial hole while you’re gearing up for a career change.

The survey found 54% would either consider or have already taken on a temp role to support their switching process. Some 41% see an interim role as a chance to have greater flexibility, while 27% believe temp and contracting opportunities can build experience in a different industry. 

So, how can you use a temp job to make the career move of your dreams?

How to use temp roles to switch career 

There are two main ways people wanting to change career paths can use temp roles to achieve their goal. 

The first is to secure a temp role in your chosen industry with the aim of impressing your manager, and the hope that at the end of your contract your role will be made permanent. Even if there’s no immediate permanent position for you within the company, you should have a solid reference under your belt, as well as important skills and experience, setting you up to apply for other vacancies in your chosen sector. 

Alternatively, if you need new qualifications to make the career switch, a temp role can keep you afloat financially while you concentrate on upskilling. Ideally, this temp role would also be in your chosen industry, allowing you to gain work experience too - but it does not have to be. 

Here are nine steps to using temp roles for a successful career switch.

1. Apply for temp roles in your chosen sector

The first step is to contact a temp recruitment agency to apply for temporary roles in the sector you’re aiming to move into full-time. 

At Michael Page, for instance, we specialise in recruiting temporary, contract, and interim talent across a wide range of industries, from banking and financial services and engineering and manufacturing, to technology and marketing.

Why a temp job and not a full-time position?

Employers are often wary of hiring a worker from a different profession, especially if you’re not applying for entry level roles. Hiring a full-time employee comes at significant cost to any organisation due to the time spent onboarding and training the new team member, while letting go of an employee if they’re not a good fit can also cost a lot of money and is fraught with legal issues. 

Because these complications don’t apply to temp workers, employers may be more likely to take a chance on a hire from a different sector in order to get a position filled quickly. When applying, ensure you highlight any transferable skills on your CV and cover letter.

2. Take every opportunity to upskill

Once you’ve secured a temp job in your chosen industry, it’s time to wring everything you can out of the experience.

Take every opportunity to upskill. Attend any training sessions you’re permitted to - even if they’re not directly relevant to your temp role - and become familiar with any software used at the company. Get to know the key players in different departments and ask them about their roles to learn more about how the whole operation works. Learn as much as you can from your colleagues and manager by asking questions, and asking them to review your work. There may also be opportunities to shadow a colleague in a different role to you, or for someone senior in the company to mentor you. Make it clear you are keen to learn and progress.

3. Gain as much experience as you can

Put your hand up for every opportunity offered to you. If people are needed to attend industry events, assist other departments, or help with anything outside the immediate remit of your temp role, try to get involved. Taking on extra shifts or working overtime will also bolster your experience and no doubt impress your superiors. 

4. Network, network, network 

One of the major advantages of taking on a temp job in the industry you want to work in is the connections you can make. Remember, these are the people who will decide whether to keep you on, whether to hire you in future, and what type of reference you’ll leave with. And they will likely have industry connections in other companies, so even if they’re unable to hire you into a role in your current organisation, they may recommend you to other decision makers. 

Opportunities to network include company events such as social gatherings and Christmas parties. There may also be networks, groups, and committees you can join within the company, such as a woman’s network, sports team, or social committee. Industry events such as conferences or awards ceremonies are especially useful for meeting key players in the wider sector. 

Even if your networking opportunities are restricted to your day-to-day role, discussing a common interest with a team member, chatting with a colleague while making lunch, or attending after work social events will all stand you in good stead for the future. It’s all about making a good impression.

5. Impress your manager

Every day is a new chance to impress the people who could decide whether you’re able to make your career change permanent. 

It’s vital to hit your deadlines, collaborate well with your team, take feedback on board, be eager to learn, and to generally be pleasant and professional to work with during this time.

6. Push for permanence 

Once you’re established in your temp role, make it clear to your manager that you would be keen to remain within the company - and the sector - when your contract comes to an end. 

If you’re impressing your superiors, they will likely be keen to retain you, and let you know of any vacancies that become available. Even if this isn’t immediately possible, they may still help you to develop professionally during this time, meaning you could be top of the pile when a vacancy does arise. 

7. ‘Test drive’ your new career 

Make time for reflection during the length of your temp posting. It may be that you discover the sector you moved into isn’t for you, or that you’d be keen to specialise in a certain aspect of it. 

Taking on a temp role allows you to ‘test drive’ your new career before you commit or invest any time or money in new qualifications. If it’s not what you hoped it would be, you can return to your previous profession, or consider a different career switch.

8. Secure references 

When you don’t have a huge amount of experience, or many qualifications in your chosen industry, references from senior professionals in the sector will go a long way to helping you secure a permanent role. 

Ensure you make a good impression, make it clear you’re dedicated to carving out a career in the sector, and get the contact details of the senior leaders you would like references from before you leave. Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials on LinkedIn too. 

9. Build your portfolio and/or CV

Throughout your time in your temp role, keep a record of your duties and responsibilities, and create case studies of any successes. If you have measurable targets in your temp job, record the relevant metrics at the beginning and the end of your time in the role, so you can demonstrate your impact in future interviews. If you are in a role where deliverables are involved, save them to your personal computer to ensure you can build a portfolio once your temp job comes to an end. 

What if qualifications are vital?

The possibility of gaining a temp job in your chosen industry is going to vary wildly depending on the profession. While some companies will be willing to take on a temporary hire with just transferable skills, in other highly-skilled professions it would be irresponsible to do so. 

If qualifications are vital for the sector you have chosen, it’s likely you will need to go back to college or university, or complete an online qualification, in order to gain even an entry level role. As part of this, you may also be required to undertake an internship. 

In this case, it may be impossible to remain in your current role. If so, taking on a temp job can help to keep you afloat financially while you train up for that all-important career move. Look for jobs with flexible hours, or unsociable hours, that will free you up to gain work experience in your chosen field during standard working hours. 

What’s next?

Michael Page specialises in recruiting temporary, contract, and interim talent across a wide range of industries – so if you’re considering taking on your next temp role, take a look through our library of helpful tips for temps.

Alternatively, submit your CV today and one of our expert consultants will be in touch. 

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