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It seems that every month the official job report tells a different story. First it's all bad, then we're slowly climbing out of the recession, then there's a retreat. For all the back and forth uncertainty, the simple fact is you need a steady income to sustain yourself, and your family.

For many people these days the temp agency is a surefire way to land a job, even if it's part-time or short-term. For employers facing ambiguous economic signals, temporary workers provide the necessary labor without the cost of benefits or the complicated process of letting someone go if work dries up.

If you're shying away from a temp job while continuing your search for a fulltime position, don't. Here's why you should consider pursuing both routes simultaneously.

1. They're working for you. Temp agencies, also known as staffing agencies, respond to the needs of their paying customers -- the companies that hire them. However, they get paid only when a candidate has been placed. Add your name to several temp agencies' databases and be politely persistent about keeping your resume at the top of the heap. You'll have a team of people working towards your gainful employment.

2. It's a chance to test out different industries. Although companies may regard you as a temporary employee, they're also your temporary employer. This might be a negative if you're looking for stability, but if you're unsure what type of job you want, nothing beats the chance to jump from company to company and experience different environments and responsibilities. Many corporate training programs offer entry-level employees the chance to move between departments, so design your own rotation by lining up temp jobs in different industries. This strategy applies to recent graduates and anyone considering a new career.

3. It can lead to fulltime and repeat employment. Sometimes companies are interested in hiring someone new but want to test the candidate without the commitment or paperwork. These positions are called temp-to-hire. If you want your temp job to turn into a fulltime job you'll need to be a quick learner and a hard worker. Be sure to tell the staffing agency this is your goal so they can set you up with an appropriate company. Even if there aren't any temp-to-hire positions at the moment, taking short-term work is a chance to build your professional network.

If your assignment is with a company that needs extra seasonal help and you work hard, the company may call you directly with an offer next year. Once the staffing agency is out of the picture and not taking a commission, you may be able to negotiate a higher wage.

4. They're not just for unskilled workers. A temp job doesn't necessarily equate to unskilled work. A number of temp agencies actually specialize in placing skilled workers in companies that need extra manpower. For example, Accountemps, an offshoot of a much larger professional services firm, places people in accounting, finance, and bookkeeping positions. Other agencies specialize in placing computer programmers, paralegals, or skilled trades workers.

5. Benefits. One of the downsides of temp jobs and part-time work (and one reason many employers have cut work hours) is that you probably don't qualify for company benefits. That said, temp agencies often provide benefits packages for workers they have placed. Accountemps offers free training, group health, life, and disability insurance, a benefits and retirement program, and tuition reimbursement. Adecco, one of the largest temp agencies, also offers medical coverage, a 401(k), job training, and career counseling.

6. No empty spaces. It can be hard to explain prolonged periods of unemployment to a potential employer. Fill the gaps and keep your skills fresh by taking on a few temporary assignments. Supervisors from your temp job can also be references once your assignment is wrapped up.

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