If you're like a lot of young women just starting a career path, trying to find the field you'll enjoy or trying to break into the field you spent four years studying for, you might have a lot of temporary work experience, which isn't all bad. But convincing a hiring manager that the temporary jobs were actually a path to a career that you'll love, you need to fill out your application so it doesn't look like you're just a job hopper looking for another short-term job.
Staffing Agency Assignments
If a temp agency sent you on assignments, you were probably paid by the agency and not the agency's client. So put all of your temp work for each agency under one entry on your application. List the companies you were assigned to work for and briefly describe the duties and the dates you worked. Make it clear that your work was through a temp agency or staffing company because the number of assignments they sent you to complete can vouch for your job skills and work ethic. A temp agency wouldn't send you on assignment after assignment if you weren't a reliable employee. It makes the agency look bad.
Some freelancers prefer short-term work. If that's you, your list of temp jobs and freelance work might fill several entries on an employment application. But if you're self-employed or an independent contractor, list them so it's clear that you're the one who markets your skills and manages your freelance career. In this case, list your temporary jobs under a single entry. But be ready to show that you actually are an independent contractor, such as your registration as a sole-proprietorship business, a corporation or limited liability company from your state government. You don't want the recruiter or hiring manager to think that you just worked a bunch of jobs for a short period that weren't supposed to be temp jobs.
All employers really want to know is if you can do the work. In many cases, they're more concerned about what you bring to the table -- what you can do to benefit the company -- than how long you stayed at each previous job. So make references to your job skills, work areas and accomplishment to outshine how long you worked for various companies. Some employment applications have separate sections including information that sets your apart from the others. This is a perfect place for you to highlight what you have to offer. For example, if you handled a data migration project or server maintenance for five different employers, use similar descriptions for each temp job so potential employers know your specialty areas. On the other hand, if you want to portray your skill set as ultra-flexible, describe your temp work by listing several general areas you're proficient in, such as server maintenance, data migration, network security and coding.
Employment applications are legal documents that don't allow for too much creativity. You need a resume to market yourself. Writing a resume that showcases what you can't fit into the fields on an application, gives you a chance to be creative about your career as a temp worker. Try out a functional resume, which might be the most effective way to present your professional competencies. When you describe your competency areas, group them into short paragraphs about similar projects. This technique draws the reader's eye to focus more on your skills and capabilities than the fact that you've only been working temp jobs.
Filling out an application and writing your resume are the easy steps. The next hurdle is your interview. Rehearse your "elevator speech" for the question every company wants the answer to, "Can you tell me about yourself?" An elevator speech is about 60 seconds long -- the time it takes to travel from the first floor to the top of a mid-rise building. You talk about your work history, what field you're interested in and spend the last part telling the interviewer what you can do for the company.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.