Conventional wisdom has it that workers view temp work as a last resort. I may have started my journey with the same attitude but my experiences have have given a different outlook.

I began my career as an employee and customer service representative, going through a few layoffs as companies or divisions closed. Tired with the travails of corporate life, I signed up for temp agencies and was put to work immediately at different companies in various industries. I took assignments that I thought were interesting, turned others down that sounded banal. I have now worked at more than 15 temporary jobs and acquired expertise and friends. Now — toward the end of my career — I exclusively work through temp agencies and enjoy the flexibility of a schedule that enhances my family’s quality of life.

Temp agencies can be a port in a storm in an uncertain economy by allowing workers like me easier movement from jobs in receding industries to industries that are growing. Here’s what working through staffing agencies has done for me.

  • Steady Paycheck. When I went through a layoff, the temp agencies provided me with confidence by getting me back quickly. Thanks to the speed with which these agencies moved, I was not out of work for more than two weeks and could rely on a steady paycheck.
  • Retooled. I was never unprepared. The temp agencies provided me a chance to retool my skills with online training programs of the latest version of software programs (Excel, Word, PowerPoint etc.) and I went into assignments confident that I had the most up-to-date computer skills.
  • The Right Fit. My recruiters took the time to establish a relationship with the staffing specialists in the temp agencies. They took the time and the effort to get to know me. As a result, when my resume was presented to a company, I was usually chosen for the assignment. I was a good fit for most of the assignments the specialists had in mind. At my end, I have always been confident that the agencies were representing me right. This allowed me to take on new tasks with confidence.
  • Amicable Parting. On the few occasions where the assignments did not work out well, the agencies have been very good at arranging a mutual parting without any ill will on either side. This makes a big difference to a temp worker’s confidence. After giving it my best, I have felt free to be honest and let both the client and the agency know — quickly — when the fit wasn’t right. The client gains as well because the last thing anyone wants is an unproductive temp.
  • Lasting Relationships. Because the agencies have strived for the right fit, I have been able to complete projects on time, establish good relationships and receive excellent references from many of the managers I have reported to. I have also gained friendships via assignments that have lasted over the years.
  • Varied Expertise. Through working with temp agencies, I have been able to use my experience in many diverse industries from banking, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and even staffing. This helped me to sharpen my abilities, making work a stimulating experience, while also helping deepen my resume.
  • Temp to perm. Two of my assignments did translate to permanent positions. Many workers forget that temporary assignments often are a try-before-you-buy scenario. Conduct yourself well and the opportunities are boundless.

People have different priorities and not everyone can rely on temporary work as a career. But with the right attitude, temporary work can open doors. Working with staffing agencies has been a very positive experience for me, providing my family a flexible schedule along with a good work-life balance.