Let’s start out by stating the obvious. Some people do get hired into permanent positions from temporary jobs.
How many temp to perm conversions happen on an annual basis? I have no idea. My research assistant is napping. In my experience as a working Human Resources professional from 1995-2007, I saw it happen three times. All three women were hired as administrative assistants after working as temporary secretaries for more than ninety days.
Far too many people with a professional degrees are talked into taking a temp job on the hope that they can get into a company, learn the culture, and make connections. Don’t believe the hype. You can absolutely do those things — but very rarely will you land a job in your chosen field. And for those of you who come into a company as a contractor and hope that the job converts to a permanent role, I have more disappointing news for you. I once worked with a guy who was a contractor for eighteen years. This was an anomaly, but the company’s manager told me that violating every co-employment rule and paying this guy as a 1099 was more desirable than converting him to a permanent employee. The company didn’t want to carry the burden of health & welfare benefits.
When you are unemployed and in need of cash, a job is a job. Temporary work can pay a mortgage, put your kids in braces, and pay your monthly COBRA bill. But for every person who enters a company as a temp and lands a permanent job, there are hundreds of others who wasted time and energy pursuing opportunities that never existed in the first place.
If you are temping, use your time wisely. Remember that it’s just a job. Think about the opportunity as a short-term way to improve your skills. A temp job can be a crash course in many areas: project management, elevated computer skills, and improved interpersonal skills.
If a company has headcount, they’ll fill it. If they want to play games with the budget and acquire additional resources outside of their planned labor expenditures, they’ll hire someone to work as a temp. That someone is you. Remember to keep your expectations in check.