Is interim employment right for you?

Whenever you’re between full-time jobs, interim work can be a strategic move.

Published: Nov 28, 2023

Kerry’s boss announced that the company would be doing layoffs in the next quarter, and that most teams would be affected. She had been looking for a sign to leave and look for new work, and was considering interim employment as an option. 

As of April 2023, interim staffers made up nearly 2% of the workforce. That may seem like a small percentage, but many people work a short-term job at some point in their career. Interim employment has long moved beyond the days of “temping.” Taking a job with a deadline can now help you build your personal brand, make a strategic pivot, or beef up your leadership resume. 

Here’s how to find out if interim employment is right for you. 

Taking a job with a deadline can now help you build your personal brand, make a strategic pivot, or beef up your leadership resume.

What’s your unique context? 

Sometimes, with layoffs, you get a lot of heads up from the company to think about what’s next. Sometimes it comes out of the blue and you need to make decisions quickly. Sometimes, you’re choosing to leave your job.  

All of these reasons come with their own decision tree and potential financial implications, but one thing remains the same: your personal brand. “No matter what you pick next, you will lay a personal brand for yourself in three ways: the industry you work in, your function (your 8-to-5) and your level,” says David Meintrup, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. He advises that you think about how to carry forward and strengthen your personal brand in at least one of these areas as you consider the next step. 

What’s your larger goal?  

If you’re trying to get out of a parking lot role—where you’re circling the ‘lot’ for months or years waiting for someone to leave their space—making the choice to work an interim job for six months could get you the opportunities your last employer wasn’t making available. 

Similarly, if you need something to fill a potential gap in employment on your resume, approaching interim employment strategically will make it easier to get excited, rather than thinking about it as a contract gig you’re settling for.  

But done poorly, interim employment could detract from your long-term career goals. Work with a career coach to explore the lenses of personal brand, money, longevity, stability, and more, when deciding whether to take an interim job or not. 

Are you selling a track record or selling potential?  

For some interim jobs, you need prior experience. But sometimes, you can use the job to get that experience and parlay it into a bigger opportunity down the line. 

If you’re being placed through a recruiting agency, you probably need to show a proven track record in the function, level, and industry because they’re hired to bring the best matches to their clients. 

But if you’re applying directly to a hiring manager, it might be easier to make the case for hiring you if, say, you haven’t worked in the function but you have valuable industry experience. If you work in tech and you’ve been in the parking lot at your company, waiting for a manager role to open up, you could consider applying as the interim manager of a team at a start-up that has the need, but no budget for a full-time hire.

Will the interim job distract from your job search?  

Sometimes, working a stopgap job while searching for a full-time job ends up making you so busy you don’t have time or motivation for the job search. Career experts caution not to let the interim job get so overwhelming that it sabotages your larger project. 

Unless, of course, the interim gig could turn into full-time employment. But many agencies that place temporary workers aren’t incentivized for the employer to hire you on full-time, because they make a commission on your hourly pay. “You have to advocate for yourself,” Meintrup says.  

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