By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer
Fact: more Canadians work on a non-permanent basis today than a decade ago. Up to 40% of our workforce has a job that could be classified as “precarious” – temporary, part-time or self-employed, often with few or no benefits.
Some of the increase in this sort of work is voluntary. There are upsides for those who want employment flexibility. However there are negatives for precarious employment too.
Is earning a living this way right for you?
Why Non-Permanent Employment Is On The Rise
Two-thirds of precarious workers in Canada say they would prefer to have a permanent position. An inability to find a “real” job is the reason most commonly given for taking non-permanent employment, says the Canadian Council on Social Development.
Changes in employer hiring strategies is another explanation. The increased use of just-in-time employment helps companies face intensified competition. Precarious workers can be hired quickly in booms and easily dismissed during busts. Also, many firms hire non-permanent workers to replace employees on maternity, family or long-term disability leave.
The Upsides of Being A Non-Permament Worker
Do you enjoy changing assignments often? Do you want to stay flexible in terms of balancing work with your other priorities?
With precarious employment you normally change employers repeatedly. Each assignment (temporary job, contract position or gig) could be with someone new. There will be exposure to various routines and ways of getting things done. Plus every assignment is an opportunity to meet new colleagues or contacts.
Among the the other possible positives of precarious work:
· You may be able to fit your work schedule around your other weekly activities
· It can be a foot in the door to permanent employment – though if you are placed by a personnel agency you must read their contract carefully, as it may have conditions preventing you from negotiating with the employer directly for longer-term work
· It beats being unemployed if you need to find work fairly quickly
Some Downsides Of Precarious Work
This isn’t an ideal solution for everyone. Not every type of job can be done on a short-term, in and out basis. There are some other pitfalls, such as…
· Not being treated like “one of the team” when on assignments, because you aren’t part of the permanent staff and will probably be leaving soon for another job
· Having to learn new procedures, use different equipment/software, and navigate the politics of every single workplace you get assigned to
· Dealing with the uncertainty of whether there will be work for you after your existing asignment comes to an end
· Because of their short job tenure, temporary employees are eligible only for the minimum legal notice of dismissal and severance
Temporary workers are typically hired by agencies (e.g. temp agencies, personnel firms). You submit your temping resume to the agency. If you’re accepted, the agency sends you out on assignments to work at various employers. The jobs tend to be at lower levels and can last anywhere from a few days to months at a time.
Temping can be a fairly reliable way to regularly find short-term work assignments. And since you actually work for the agency (not the employer they send you to), the agency itself may offer you benefits, bonuses, and other perks you might not get on your own. Here are some tips on preparing your temping resume.
In contract employment, you are brought aboard a company for a fixed term. The duration of your contract could be several months, or a year plus. You might get paid as if you were a regular employee, with full benefits. But you’re more likely to get treated as a self-employed contractor, with few or no benefits.
Employers tend to value maturity and extensive experience when hiring for contract positions. They want someone who can jump right in and do the job with little fuss or extra training. That means being somewhat older or over-qualified may actually work in your favour.
Freelancing And Gigs
As a freelancer, you’re self-employed and you bid for work assignments (gigs). The gigs can be priced on an hourly basis or in terms of completed work. In any event, the client hiring you knows upfront how much they’ll pay and what they’ll get.
Freelancing is good for professionals who don’t mind marketing their services. Accountants, lawyers, artists, musicians, web designers…all can bid for gigs in their field of expertise. Nowadays, online talent markets serve as local or worldwide labour exchanges. Be ready to compete!
Every December, retailers and others hire thousands of people for a month or two. This way they can cover seasonal demand without committing to long-term employment. Same goes for summer jobs. Sometimes it’s possible to turn seasonal work into an ongoing job.
Nearly 20% of Canada’s workforce is employed part-time. This number soars to 50% for youths 15 – 24 years old. With adults, more women than men hold part-time jobs. Even though full-time positions tend to be harder to get, you’ll still need a decent resume and cover letter for part-time employment.
Getting Started In Non-Permanent Employment
So is being a precarious worker right for you? If you think it is, Monster can help get you started. Visit Monster.ca’s job search page to find relevant postings. Click on “Advanced Search.” Then after entering the preferred job title and location, scroll down to “Job Type.” Select the boxes for Contract, Part-Time, Temp or Other.
Non-permanent employment is a flexible way of working for pay. It may serve as a bridge to permanent employment, or provide an ongoing income source. And if you try it but aren’t satisfied with working this way, you can always go back to looking for a job that may provide more stability.
3. Home-based jobs
If you’ve set your sights on a work-from-home job, go straight to a company you’d like to work for and see whether it hires remote workers. You can also use websites such as Upwork.com, which features online positions; Freelancer.com, for project-based work; and VirtualVocations.com, for telecommuting jobs. For those with fluency in two languages, there are a growing number of opportunities for translators and interpreters. To work for certain employers, you need to know specialized vocabulary, such as legal or medical terms.
Graphic designers can find plenty of assignments designing websites, logos, letterhead, business cards, restaurant menus, marketing brochures and much more. If you have a flair for the written word and a clear grasp of spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage, you can find a wide range of writing and editing jobs. Reach out to local associations and organizations, nonprofits, community newsletters and other regional publications. Ask if they need an extra hand on an assignment basis for online and print articles, brochures and press releases.
You might be able to build a business that runs on your own time clock by tapping into your natural talents as a crafter — by, say, making jewelry, sewing pillows and quilts, or creating other one-of-a-kind items. You could sell your creations on a website like Etsy, a marketplace for handmade items.
4. Contract or temporary work assignments
Accountant is the part-time job most requested by clients of FlexProfessionals — a staffing firm based in Washington, D.C., and Boston — says cofounder Gwenn Rosener. A degree in accounting or business is helpful but not required. The most common certification is certified public accountant (CPA). Duties include preparing financial reports, processing payroll checks, invoicing and tracking down delinquent accounts.
Some firms will ask you to monitor checking and savings accounts and track credit card bills, too. If you have the qualifications, you may be in charge of helping to prepare annual tax returns. Many of these positions are virtual, but some are on-site, as well. Employers run the gamut from start-ups and small businesses to churches and local nonprofits. Other popular short-term jobs include administrative assistant, attorney, bookkeeper, marketing communications specialist, project manager, receptionist and sales rep.