After going through some life changes, I found myself going back to school late in life for a career change. I decided to pursue occupational therapy, and studied in a program that gave me clinical experience along the way.

After graduation, I decided to use the services of a staffing firm to help me find a position in my field. What transpired turned out to be a real learning experience for all parties involved.

I worked with my staffing provider for a few weeks before I landed my first assignment. It was supposed to be for three months. Unfortunately, it ended much sooner.

The client was a rehab facility that usually required more experienced therapists for contract gigs, but had decided to give a new grad a chance. However, what I didn’t realize was that, at least for this client, temp work meant no training would be provided on the systems it used. I was expected to be able to hit the ground running.

As it turned out, there were no complaints about my treatment plans or patient care. But my lack of systems experience affected my productivity. If I had been hired as a full-time employee, I wouldn’t have seen any patients for a week while I was learning their system, getting a complete orientation and tour of the facility. Contractors aren’t afforded that luxury. I was very clear with the staffing provider and this client what my experience level was — and was not. Still, the client expected me to have prior knowledge of its documentation software.

What I learned from the client supervisor was even more discouraging, though. He advised me not to pursue contract work again because most healthcare facilities do expect contract therapists to be able to take a full case load from day one. Rather, he said I should seek a full-time position and get a few years under my belt, and then pursue contract work if I still wanted.

Someone at another facility told me that even part-time OTA work usually requires experience. And I learned that there are a few different documentation software packages rehab facilities may use. I am pursuing online training in the system the rehab facility I had been with used, so I am hopeful if I do end up finding a contract assignment before a full-time job, I will have a better chance.

With this particular client, we agreed mutually after a week that it was not a good fit, and I left. I hold no ill feelings, but I do think staffing providers and their clients need to be on the same page in order to ensure their temps aren’t set up to fail. If a client ordinarily expects experience but decides to give a recent grad a shot, be sure to question that decision. If the client refuses to bend on training, be sure the candidates you put forth have been exposed to the system in question — or try to talk the client out of using a new or recent graduate with little work experience. And if your line of staffing is similar in that contract work really isn’t suited for recent grads, tell us. After getting a few years’ experience, I’d be more inclined to work with the up-front recruiters than one that sets me up to fail.

The week after this occurred, I learned the recruiter I worked with was gone. I do not know the circumstances of the departure, but I hope it wasn’t because of this situation. I also hope the remaining staff are aware of what transpired, though, and learn from it.

For my part, I think I got too excited about a job prospect that I may have missed the boat by not asking more questions. While I was more than clear about my lack of experience, perhaps there was more I could do, more questions I could have asked, to have let me know I should turn down the job.