Will Taking a Temporary Position Impact Your Future Search for Full-Time Employment?

Two women in retail

I’ve spoken with several people recently who are unhappy in their current full-time positions but aren’t having any luck finding full-time job openings in the current economic climate. Some of them are toying with the idea of applying for a temporary or seasonal job but aren’t sure how prospective employers might view that down the road. Could it have a negative impact if they left a full-time career spot for a temporary position?

The answer depends on the situation — but it usually isn’t the best option, careers experts say.

According to Damian Birkel, founder and executive director of the nationally recognized nonprofit Professionals In Transition Support Group Inc., the “pros” are related to mental and physical health — especially in times of COVID-19, when safety concerns in the workplace are top-of-mind.

“The biggest issue of leaving a secure, full-time job, is your salary and benefits,” Birkel says. Even if you hate your job, you do have predictable income, health care and other benefits. And many times, when you leave a full-time job for a temporary or seasonal job, you may find yourself underpaid and underemployed. But if you have been in a highly stressful, toxic work environment, being underemployed may actually be a stress reducing relief, and allow you to recover from your old job, before beginning a full-fledged job search,” Birkel says.

Now for the cons.

Aside from the obvious and instantaneous hit to your income, the biggest con lies in the nature of the job itself.

“Understand that you are now a temporary employee,” Birkel stresses. “You may love your new assignment with your new company but remember that you could be eliminated at any time, for any reason, because you are a ‘rent-an-employee’ who is highly expendable.”

And that, says Talley Flora, CEO of recruiting and hiring firm Red Seat, is why a temporary position can be an obstacle.

“For starters, what happens when the temporary job ends?” asks Flora, stressing the unpredictable nature of today’s job market. “While companies are still hiring, there is no crystal ball on how the pandemic will play out in the coming months. There is a risk of leaving a job for a temporary position no matter the economy, but in a pandemic, there is a higher risk that another job may be hard to find once the temporary position ends,” she says. “It will be important to weigh the health risk of staying at the current position with the economic risk of leaving.”

Birkel agrees that losing a temporary job now could make the long-term search more challenging — and a bigger hit to the pocketbook too.

While common wisdom says you need a minimum of six months of living expenses saved, he ups that estimate. “Given the current environment, eight to 12 months is a much more realistic amount,” he says.

And now to the question, “How would leaving a full-time job for a temporary or seasonal position be viewed by prospective employers down the road?”

“Any future employer worth their salt will certainly understand leaving a permanent job because of health or toxic work conditions,” says Birkel. “And if a temporary job is better aligned with the individual’s talents, values and abilities than the full-time position, it could eventually lead to a better, stronger and potentially more lucrative position. It all comes down to how you position the move on your resume and when you interview.”

“I think many people will understand and appreciate the difficult decision of leaving a position that posed an unnecessary or high risk for COVID-19 to an individual during the pandemic,” echoes Flora. “But others could be suspect of such decision making.”

That, she says, is even more likely in more normal times.

“In regular times, someone leaving a permanent job for a temporary position does not add up to a strategic move,” Flora says. “While it is not a deal-breaker to leave a position for a temporary position, it is preferable to find a full-time role that contributes to adding to or advancing career progression.”

The bottom line: Job seekers must assess their situation and decide what is best for them all around.

“In all my years,” says Birkel, “I know of no one on their deathbed who would say, “Damn, I’d give everything if I could just have worked longer in that toxic environment!”


(Article written by Kathleen Furore)