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The Hidden Job Market: How to Find Rewarding Contract or Temporary Work

by Sandra Boyd

The comic strip Dilbert once featured a character, Ratbert, who gets a job as a temp. Before starting the assignment, Ratbert naively reckons “as a temp I will finally get all of the respect and unconditional love that I deserve.” On the first day of work, however, Ratbert discovers that his “office”is a cardboard box situated in a busy hallway. Dilbert explains to the rodent that his temp status is “roughly between the security guard and the crud behind the refrigerator.”

It is doubtful anyone contemplating temporary work will approach employment services with as much idealism as Ratbert. However, after reading Sandra Boyd’s The Hidden Job Market: How to Find Rewarding Contract or Temporary Work, they should land short-term postings that are vastly more fulfilling.

Boyd, a veteran of Toronto’s temporary employment industry, opens an insider’s window on a job sector she claims is the fourth fastest growing in the world (sources for many similar claims are oddly uncredited). In seven chatty chapters she outlines the importance of the industry, those who flourish in it, and the do’s and dont’s for a variety of testing, training, and interview scenarios.

Boyd has a tendency to be wordy – devoting two pages, for example, on how a temp should say “no” to an assignment. Many of the “Real Life” sidebars would command more authority if they featured real, rather than fictional characters such as “Toni Temp” and “Tammy Temporary.”

The Hidden Job Market works best in identifying the benefits of contract employment and the range of people who may most reap its rewards. In Boyd’s experience it is techie nomads (they crave cutting edge technology and equipment), students, new Canadians, and women returning to the workforce. Boyd also includes useful appendixes, like employment services preferred by leading Canadian companies. While her argument that many people can leverage temp assignments to gain confidence, experience, and contacts is convincing, I was irked by her assertion that temping allows immigrants exposure to the “Canadian work ethic” (whatever that is).

For skimming on the subway, or perusing in a downtown java joint (temping is exclusively an urban alternative), The Hidden Job Market succeeds in its mandate of offering workers “a common sense and professional approach to dealing with employment services and company clients.” Slip a copy to the Ratbert in your life.