Should You Take a Short-term Job? Why or Why Not?

Nancy Anderson
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Whether you left or lost a job, unemployment can weaken your confidence and drive you into survival mode. In the beginning, taking a short-term job might seem like giving up on your dream career, but any prospects start looking attractive as the job search drags on. Short-term jobs can be a help instead of a hindrance, as long as you use them to further your goals, rather than acting out of desperation.

Why You Should Consider Temporary Work

When you're pursuing a professional career or skilled trade, accepting a job that doesn't make the most of your expertise may feel like lowering your standards. Many short-term jobs don't involve a skill set and compensation consistent with your education and experience, so it's natural to be concerned about them having a negative impact on your resume. You may also be reluctant to dive into a temporary situation if it distracts you from your primary goal.

However, financial pressures are bound to surface, especially if you didn't plan ahead for unemployment. Any unexpected expense can come along and wipe out your savings. Job hunting is time-consuming and unpredictable, and you lose competitiveness as a candidate the longer you stay unemployed. This period of uncertainty can be demoralizing and emotionally draining if no strong leads surface early on, and a persistent sense of doubt only makes it harder to stay driven. Not to mention, many employers are so slow to make hiring decisions that you may end up waiting weeks or months for interviews and job offers even with promising opportunities on the horizon.

In light of these factors, a short-term job can offer peace of mind and stability while you look for the right opportunity. Having regular income is a confidence booster, and being less stressed about financial strain allows you to think clearly about the pros and cons of a job offer. Moreover, every job exposes you to new equipment, software, people and problem-solving strategies, adding skills to your arsenal and expanding your network of contacts. Temporary work puts you in contact with diverse people who can provide referrals, leads or testimonials, and you may even discover interests that take your career in a new direction.

When to Say No to Short-Term Jobs

Although short-term jobs offer growth potential, not every position is worth taking. Working at a company with a terrible reputation and high turnover is usually a bad idea because the negative energy can easily leech into your job search. When you finally land an interview, you want to be in an upbeat mindset and be able to speak positively about your work.

Choosing a job that isn't mentally or physically taxing is also a good idea, as you need energy and enthusiasm to keep networking, hunting for leads and contacting hiring managers. However, don't allow others to define what is or isn't acceptable. If a lower-skilled job offers the balance you need to make a good career move, it's your best option in the long run.

If you're worried about having a short-term job on your resume, remember you can leave off a position you only held a few months. All jobs involve skills you can successfully market to an employer, so it's up to you to highlight the value you brought to the role.

Photo courtesy of GT AMSA at


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  • Marcin Nowacz
    Marcin Nowacz

    Nice article

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Laurie Marinelli thanks for your comment. Companies love temp workers because they don't have to offer any benefits and can get by with a lower pay. Then, if they decide for whatever reason that you are not the person for the position, you are gone - no questions asked. It costs a company over $50,000 per employee for onboarding today. So much cheaper to just hire a temp worker. To me it would be cheaper to hire a permanent employee and teach them in the way you want. Then you will have a loyal employee for the years to come instead of having to take the time to train someone who may or may not be qualified for the position in the first place and who will leave at a moment's notice for a better position. I have worked as a temp and as a contractor. Being a contractor is cheaper for the company because, again, they don't have to pay any benefits and can let you go at a moment's notice. Hope that answers your question.

  • Laurie Marinelli
    Laurie Marinelli

    I can really see where you are coming from, Kenneth K. I have been looking for a permanent position for over 2 years since I was laid off from my last full time job. Trying to convince employers that permanent workers will be their best employees for the long term has been so frustrating.

  • Michael Braten
    Michael Braten

    Here is my view: If your the wrong age , and the job involves some physical lifting , then lots of luck. I am a IT person. Temp jobs are rare because of the age issue, and if you are out too long, then that is used against you as well. The only difference is that recruiters will complain about the gap .

  • Elaine LaFrance
    Elaine LaFrance

    took a long break from trial lawyer work and loved it--1 year with the IRS (low level $8.25/hr), 2 yrs military postgrad school projects, 1 yr underwriting legal malpractice. Came back to law, now unexpectedly unemployed, age 52!! Help!! I'm disabled (lupus, back injury) AND CANT GET A BREAK!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Kenneth C it's true that a permanent position would be better but it's not always possible. I have been a contractor for about 10 years now. Sure it would be great to go permanent and to have all of the perks associated with that but then, again, if I were permanent, I would not have control on my career and future let alone being able to work remotely. So you have to weigh all of these things out. @Deborah Jackson it's a shame that employers in the healthcare field view temp work that way. I would turn around and say - okay, then, to keep us from taking short-term work or a part-time job - you have to bring our pay up to meet our basic needs! That usually stops the conversation right then and there! Employers don't want to pay you more but they don't want you to do work outside of the company, either. Why? Because they fear that you will enjoy that part-time or temp work more than your regular job and you will jump ship!

  • Kenneth K.
    Kenneth K.

    I've had about 4 short term contract jobs over my career. These were when I was between jobs. I didn't find the money to be that good, actually less than what I would have made doing the same work in a permanent position. However, the money certainly helped pay the bills. But, unless you can get an endless stream of contract or temporary jobs, you are just prolonging the inevitable. That is that you need a permanent job that pays you a permanent stream of income.

  • Deborah  Jackson
    Deborah Jackson

    As a nurse this has been sadly frowned upon in my interviews. Even having another part time job I was looked upon as not being devoted to the employer.

  • Daryl K.
    Daryl K.

    Good article! I may take something like that. The only thing that makes it hard to do so is the lack of benefits and PTO. The job I've had for almost 6 years had very good benefits. At the same time, I don't want those to keep me locked there, if an intermediate/temporary/contract position can be a good bridge into a more satisfying position in a better culture. It's just - not having benefits is not a situation I take as lightly as I did when I was in my 30's - even though I am still very fit and healthy.. Thank G-d.

  • Amy H.
    Amy H.

    I have two part-time jobs. One I took just this week. I'm not sure if it's the best fit, but it does help me feel a little more self-reliant. In the long run, I would like a work at home job. Thanks for the article! It is a good reminder!

  • Theresa V.
    Theresa V.

    Some short term positions can be a foot in the door. Most of the positions I worked offered me full time work.

  • Albert G.
    Albert G.

    Excellent advice!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. I agree that short-term/temp positions are the best. It puts you in charge instead of the company being in charge. It gives us the opportunity to do something different (maybe) or to learn a new skill to add to our resume or even turn into a permanent position. I think of it as an extended interview or audition for the part. @Dwayne B you can find proofreading positions pretty much anywhere, including here on our site. Of course if you have an interest at being a proofreader at a place that is local to you, you might want to try to apply for a position through their site. Glad to hear that short-term temping worked for you. @Lia D so sorry to hear that. Just keep trying if it's what you really want to do. Maybe you should consider a temp position to determine if you really want to continue being a sub or not. You may find yourself in a different environment and loving it. Doesn't hurt anything to try temping. It's an entry on your resume and shows that you haven't been sitting around crying woe is me about your permanent job that is no longer but to show that you can roll with the punches. And remember this sad truth that it's easier to find another job when you are currently employed. That would include short-term temp jobs!

  • George Gant
    George Gant

    Short-term/temp employment has lead to two excellent career opportunities and provided some great transferrable skills...I worked a six month assignment for a specialty pharmacy (McKesson) and then utilized that experience when I subsequently landed a position with Aetna Medicare and managed the group who handled subscriber inquiries regrading their RX concerns..a six month assignment I had with a DME concern also provided valuable skills and knowledge that I leveraged while with Aetna

  • LAURA A.
    LAURA A.

    I agree, I go to school at night and work days mow I have to start working nights and going to externship days and the temp jobs are very helpful especially being a single mother.....i definitely vote yes!!!

  • Lia D.
    Lia D.

    I've been substituting at a school for the last 13 years and have still not been promoted to a better position. During these years I have also tried to complete my requirements for teacher certification and served as a parent volunteer. As hard as I have tried to pass the praxis, I come within 5 points of the required score no matter how much I study. Even though my volunteer work is appreciated and my work ethic is genuinely there, I'm told that money is tight even though others in the sub pool have been promoted despite their lack of qualifications. I've been trying to find either an additional job or one to replace my current one, by have been unsuccessful.

  • Dwayne B.
    Dwayne B.

    Nancy: I have an editorial background. Where can I find proofreading jobs?


    I'm a photographer, and I'm also getting an education in psychology. Both those things have required a flexible backup plan, and temping has been very good for that. I've done it for over 20 years.

  • Vanessa W.
    Vanessa W.

    Having graduated recently and looking for a local job to support myself and my family, I can attest to the need to just accept whatever. I do feel bad I may be quiting as soon as 3 weeks in, but it is what it is. You can only save so much and life is so unpredictable that you have to take those opportunities to have some income coming in or be homeless. Homeless vs. screwing a company over you won't even mention on your resume because it has nothing to do with your career path...yea I'll go with the latter.

  • Stacey O'Sullivan
    Stacey O'Sullivan

    If taking a short term job, chances are you will acquire a new skill or sharpen a rusty skill. I vote yes

  • Plamen Nenov
    Plamen Nenov

    consider how it looks from the employer prospective: if i offer a low pay job for low qualified workers what person i would prefer - someone overqualified who will look at this job like a temporary job or a person who will take this job seriously

  • Theron Grant
    Theron Grant

    I list short term jobs as bullet points under the parent company.

  • Peter S.
    Peter S.

    A short term job is great. It pay the bills

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. @Margaret Packard you might want to just try looking online. Our site has many telecommuting positions. Another great site to use is UpWork. They always seem to have great options. And proofreaders are in great demand. I get job postings daily about needing proofreaders. @Jeanne B oh my - so sorry that happened to you. So very true. If you are receiving state benefits, you must have a very compelling reason why you can't take the job. Even if the salary is much less than what you were used to. I know it doesn't seem fair. I felt the same way when I went through it in another state - but with the same outcome. @Eugene M they didn't deserve you! Keep looking - the jobs are out there. If you can afford to do it, try some volunteering in your community. Many times that leads to permanent placement regardless of your age. @James Sullivan being out of work for 1 1/2 yrs is probably not the best scenario but going to school is important. Make sure you highlight your school experience. At school, are you working on any committees or teams? What about organizations? That would all be viable information to include on your resume. Being a temp is not such a bad thing. It allows you to check out the company while they check out you. That way you both know if you want to consider permanent placement. I found a great career through temping and so can you. All the best.

  • Donna C.
    Donna C.

    yes when u have no job at all u take what u can

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