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Some Generic Beneficiaries of Temporary Work

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Artists, Actors, Writers, Musicians

Anyone in the arts is usually familiar with the benefits of temporary work. Why? Well, it is a sure way to pay the rent when you are making the rounds between auditions. Individuals whose first love happens to be writing, acting, or singing discovered temping long ago. And organizations are usually only too happy to have them come aboard as temps. Those who are creatively gifted are often verbal, look good, and have developed highly efficient skills. You'll find them in traditional office positions, but they are also the ones willing to try something outrageous. One New York City actor/temp dressed as Pinocchio for a famous toy store's promotion, and on another occasions he was a "body" in a casket display for a mortician’s convention.

We also learned of a group of five actors (three men and two women) who shared a large Manhattan brownstone. The temp service they worked for referred to them as The House. All five individuals had excellent office skills; and when a temp was needed for an assignment, the service called The House and left a message on their machine. One of the five was always available; and if several were available, they would draw straws.


This is a new group to discover the temporary labor market, and they are being well received by temporary help firms and their clients alike. Their reasons for working are fairly obvious: to supplement a fixed income, to enjoy some mental stimulation, and to have the opportunity to feel as though they can continue to make a contribution. Companies say they are all for senior citizens as temps because they are reliable and possess an old-fashioned work ethic.

In 1987 Kelly Services, Inc., one of the nation’s largest temporary services, instituted a program aimed directly at recruiting individuals aged 55 and older. Kelly calls its program Encore! and says that of Kelly’s 525,000 temporary employees, approximately 35,000 are over age 55. Kelly Services has also been included in an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) computerized directory that provides examples of employment programs for older workers. Many of the seniors registered with temporary help services are people who were forced into retirement because they had reached their firm s mandatory retirement age. Some of these same people never leave their posts, though, because their firm retains them, not on the company payroll, but on that of a temporary help service through a feature commonly known as pay rolling.

One happy senior we spoke with told us that retirement for him meant an opportunity to travel, and that not only did occasional temporary jobs enable him to have an extra cash reserve for his trips but that he often temped while travelling. His paychecks supplemented his pension and didn't hamper his receiving Social Security benefits. At the time of this writing, the law permits a senior (under 65) to earn up to $6,120 annually without jeopardizing his or her Social Security pension. Those 65 and older may earn $8,400 and still receive all of their benefits. A senior can earn more than these figures; however, there is a deduction of $1 in the pension for every $2 earned. Most older employees simply stop temping when they reach their earnings limit. Individuals who are 70 plus will get their full Social Security benefit each month no matter how much they earn.

Job Seekers

One person out of five who temps is looking for a permanent job. People who temp in order to secure a permanent position quickly become familiar with what is commonly known as the hidden job market. As a temporary employee, you will be exposed to the estimated 60 percent of job openings that go unadvertised. Many organizations hope to fill internal positions by promoting from within. Your inside edge puts you close to the decision-makers with hiring authority. Job seekers recognize that temping allows them to explore such things as work environments, specific firms, and whether or not they like the responsibilities associated with a particular position; and it allows them to test themselves with new challenges. If you have just moved to a new city, temporary employment may be the ideal way to learn the ins and outs of your new marketplace. Or, perhaps you want to switch fields. The transition may be much smoother if you temp first to ensure that you really like the field you want to get involved in and to see if your real-world experiences match up with your expectations.

Because so many people do become permanent employees as a result of the temporary assignments, temp services report that one of their biggest problems is attrition. "We lose a lot of good people to our clients," says one representative at a temporary help service. "A company doesn't necessarily place an order with the hope of finding someone permanent; sometimes it just hap pens. Often, the chemistry is right."
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