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Many recent graduates, especially those who weren’t fortunate enough to get an internship, find themselves in a tough situation. You have the certification that’s needed to land the job, but you lack the experience that’s required.
I once found myself in this very same predicament. I would apply for positions and get that dreaded letter in the mail. (Yup, back then they mailed you a rejection). “Thank you for your interest in our company. After careful consideration, we have decided to pursue another candidate.” When I would inquire about the rejection, I was told that I needed at least one year of experience. I thought, “How am I supposed to gain experience if no one will hire me?” On top of that, I was feeling pressure from my mother to find work.
So one day, I enlisted the help of a staffing agency to help me find a position. I was placed in a three-month contract that led to a nearly two-decade career.
If you’re finding yourself in the same position I was in, I will explain how you can achieve similar results.
Staffing agencies help businesses find workers to fill out short-term or long-term assignments or find people for direct hire positions. Since the organization does not take on the administrative costs of posting a job description, interviewing, and educating a new employee, it’s less of a risk for the company if you don’t perform well. But once you do perform well, you have the opportunity to exceed expectations in the role and get a full-time offer, or you can decide that you don’t want the position. Either way, you are gaining valuable real-world experience that you can add to your resume.
The alternative is to continue to apply for full-time roles and risk receiving rejection after rejection because you lack the work experience employers are seeking.
1. Access to a large network of possible employers. Staffing firms have strong connections with Fortune 500 corporations as well as smaller firms — stronger than you would be able to establish on your own. They have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the job market and what hiring managers are seeking. Some agencies even focus on or “specialize” in specific industries. If you have a degree in a certain field, there is more than likely a staffing firm that recruits in that industry. The staffing firm will be able to provide you with more credibility than other candidates going for the same role.
2. The chance to get a glimpse of your chosen profession. As someone who is new to the job market, you are in the phase of your career where you can find out what you’re good at and select a career that fits your personality. Being a contract employee gives you a chance to experience a company’s culture firsthand and decide whether you want to be an employee there. You will find out if you struggle or prosper in a rapidly changing atmosphere or a more a slow-paced, carefree environment.
3. A gateway to a full-time position. You’d be surprised by how much a contract position can change your life. You may even land an opportunity with a company that rejected your application/resume in the past. When I contracted at a large health insurance company as a new graduate, I had no previous corporate experience. I had applied to this same company on my own about half a dozen times for six months after graduating. Through the staffing agency, and using the same resume, I landed a three-month-to-permanent assignment. Once I had my foot in the door, I outperformed even the full-time staff — meeting or exceeding processing and quality standards. The rest, as they say, is history. To achieve similar results, you have to put your best foot forward; remember you are being tested to see if you are worth the risk of hiring.
4. Flexibility. As a contractor, you can take short breaks in between assignments, or if a position is not the right fit, you can contact the agency and they can place you with another company. Keep in mind that you may have to wait a week or so for the agency to find you a new assignment and a replacement for the position you are currently working.
While there are pros, there are also cons in any type of employment situation. As a contract employee, it can be easy to feel lonely since you’re not a full-time employee. Maybe you aren’t included in the company picnic or birthday parties, baby showers, etc. Or maybe you’re treated like the gopher and are simply responsible for the easy tasks, like filing.
From my experience, environments like this don’t change much once they hire you. If you begin to feel this way, perhaps the guarantee of a long-term role and benefits will make you feel more comfortable. Sure, there is unlimited potential for you as a new graduate if you connect with a staffing firm, but keep in mind it may not be for you depending on your unique circumstance.
As someone who went through a staffing firm as a new graduate, however, I am a living proof that you can gain an entire career by taking this road. My advice would be to research staffing firms in your area and see what they have to offer.
Written by: Katrina Brittingham