Monday, May 19 2014

How Temp Work Can Advance Your IT Career

Written by

The experience cycle is a tough one to crack, especially in the IT industry. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. If you’re just starting out in IT, how do you get a foot in the door?

One way to build up your hireability through experience is with temporary work, usually through a staffing agency that specializes in IT positions. Here’s how temp positions work, and how you can use them to strengthen your resume and move on to a more permanent home.

Temporary vs. contract: Why they’re not the same

Many people use temp work and contract work interchangeably, but it’s important to recognize the difference, especially if you’re new to the industry. Contract or project work involves fulfilling a specific function on a specific project—and these contracts are typically awarded to experienced IT professionals. Most people who do project work are independent contractors who may contract through staffing agencies, or run their own IT consulting or freelance business.

Temporary work is more of a fill-in or expansion role. Companies take on temporary employees during busy times or unexpected spikes in business, when a regular staff member is out for an extended time, or as a way to “try before they buy” and screen new employees more thoroughly for abilities, aptitudes, and cultural fit.

Typical temp IT jobs

What kinds of temporary positions can you expect to find through a staffing agency? While there aren’t many highly skilled jobs for the relatively inexperienced, if you have training or certifications in an IT discipline, you can often find temp work in:

  • Technical support: Businesses that are launching new software or rolling out products often have an increased need for tech support staff that will only last as long as the rollout. Temporary tech support jobs are a good way to gain general experience in a related field.
  • Low end web skills: Some companies hire temporary workers for website or ecommerce development (which is different from hiring a contractor to handle a web design project). If you have HTML or JavaScript skills or certifications, these positions can offer resume-worthy experience.
  • Programming: While major programming roles are typically not available through temp work, companies involved in development often hire temporary staff with knowledge of programming languages like Java, C++, and Perl to contribute to real-world projects (often under a contracted project manager).

How temp work can help you: Advantages and disadvantages

The biggest downside to temporary employment is often the income. Temp positions usually fall on the low end of the salary scale—tech support positions might offer $12 an hour or less, web skills can range from $15 to $18, and temporary programming jobs often pay from $20 to $40 an hour.

However, temp jobs provide important tradeoffs to lower pay. Aside from giving you the experience you need for higher-earning positions, you also have the opportunity to test the waters and decide what kind of IT work best suits you. Working a temp job can help you discover that databases are your one true love—or that it’s not too late to earn a certification in project management, because working with SQL for the rest of your life would drive you crazy.

In addition, staffing agencies themselves can provide you with advantages. Many offer additional training, certifications, and other educational resources. A staffing agency can also provide you with career guidance that will help you hone in on the right path for you as an IT professional.

Temp work is an effective way to break in to the IT industry. With realistic expectations, you can use temporary positions to find your place in the permanent IT world.

If you are looking for technical staffing firms in Palo Alto, contact our team today.