Sticking a Stint

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Getting hired is easy. Stay hired takes work, especially when work is something you really don’t care to do.  This conundrum becomes even more problematical when you’ve been hired by an employer who is afraid of commitment. That’s right — we’re talking “temporary.”

There is an explosive combination of opportunity and disappointment inherent in any temporary position, and turning a temp job into full-time, forever employment is not only a challenge in anyone’s book, it is also the subject of a recent Careers column by Melissa Korn in “The Wall Street Journal.”

“Making a Temporary Stint Stick,” is Ms. Korn’s topic du jour, and a timely du jour it is.  “As the economy eases into recovery mode,” Korn writes, “more companies are temporarily filling holes in their work forces before making permanent hiring decisions these days.”

As someone who has been a black hole in every job they ever held, the role of hole-filer sounds right up your alley, especially when you consider the author’s insight into the prize hidden in every temporary job package — “with the right moves, a temporary employee can make that job permanent.”

For a managerial temp, the road to permanency is based on proving to your new temporary employer that they made a big mistake by not hiring you on a full-time basis the first time around. “If you were the primary candidate, they would have just named you to that position,” is the snarky comment of Joni Lindquist, president of KHC Executive Coaching.

This sounds a little mean-spirited to my easily bruised ego, but, as we all know, managers have no feelings, so they will probably respond positively to Linquist’s suggestion that, as a managerial temp, you take “assertive action” to “move you to the top of the list.”

“You need to prove that the company shouldn’t risk replacing you,” adds Careers writer Korn. This is one career expert who disagrees. Instead of being assertive and irreplaceable, I suggest you use your managerial abilities to blend seamlessly into the fabric of company. If you want to make yourself irreplaceable, first make yourself invisible.

Executive memo: if they can’t find you, they can’t fire you.

Non-managers also have a shot at grabbing the brass ring of permanent employment. According to career experts, according to Korn, “you should quickly express your interest in staying past the initial contract term.”  I agree! But don’t make the mistake of following the advice of Jody Miller, chief executive of the Business Talent Group, and “have a formal conversation with supervisors within a few weeks of starting the temporary job… that is long enough to learn the ropes, but not so long that the search for a permanent replacement starts without you.”

Express your interest, I say, but don’t delay. A few weeks with you, and you’ll be lucky if they let you in the front door. Make your desire known in the first thirty seconds of employment. When they show you to your desk, fall to the floor and start sobbing with joy. Wrap your arms around the legs of your supervisor and refuse to let go until they give you an employment contract. If there’s any hesitation, lock yourself in the coat closet and refuse to come out. No question, this kind of scary, irrational behavior will convince your bosses that you are worth keeping. The only down side? They may move you to marketing.

If demonstrating your extreme joy at an extreme job is not sufficient, adopt the advice of Brett Good, a district president at Robert Half International Inc, who says “you can boost your odds of landing the job if you adopt the new group’s practices quickly, down to learn the appropriate jargon.”

True that! If you’re over-40 and find yourself in a cutting-edge, youth-oriented firm, you may want to start using hip expressions, like “groovy” and “23-skiddoo.” Conversely, if you’re a Generation Y, twenty-something type, and find temporary work in a stuffy organization staffed with old-timers in their 30’s and 40’s, try to learn their lingo. For example, you might lean over your cubical wall, and ask to borrow a cup of 100% Bran Flakes, or start a staff meeting by inquiring if anyone would like to spin the hot new Lawrence Welk disk you heard over the week-end at the malt shop.

And speaking of speaking jargon, be sure to refer to the boss as “that jerk.” That’s one piece of jargon to which everyone can relate.


Tyler Phillippay said,

March 29, 2010 @ 8:24 pm


Well, after reading your blog I can see that we are indeed kindred spirits. I have really enjoyed finding humor in the “real world” of business. I have 10 years under my belt and most of that time I have been collecting business sayings, funny white board concepts, office haikus, business videos, and many other categories. So far it has all been for the love of the content but I am now looking to create a permanent online presence.

The project has been called “Corporuption” but the name conjures up too much negativity. My partner and I both have full time jobs and young families so our progress moves in spurts but as a novice writer I am beginning to get very excited about our prospects. Getting to the point, we would love to talk with you about It is the perfect name for our project. I can tell you I have spent countless hours on the creation of this stuff and to save my marriage I am now trying to “do something” with it (just kidding!).

It never hurts to ask so I was hoping we can discuss the domain. Unfortunately my last name is not Rockefeller, but perhaps we could come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement. Here is a little facebook site I recently put together:

If you would be so kind to respond I would truly appreciate it. And even if we can discuss the domain I will continue to read and enjoy your work.

Best regards,

Ty Phillippay

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