By Eileen Smith Dallabrida
Delaware First Media News
These days, “temping” has a whole new spin as high-powered professionals are increasingly turning to interim positions.
The latest assignment for Dave Berlin of Exton, Pa., is as controller for a lumber company.
He also has done strategic financial planning for a maker of online greeting cards and a manufacturer of artificial turf. He served as interim CFO for a recruiting service.
There’s a boomlet in organizations looking for top talent on a contract or temporary basis, says Chris Burkhard, president of the CBI Group, a recruiting firm.
“Organizations are using temporary workers to help find that perfect match for permanent positions,” he says.
This strategy also benefits job hunters, who often wind up on the payroll full time after starting out in a temporary position. Berlin, 49, says he is open to coming on board full time in management at a mid-sized company. But he hasn’t found the right match yet.
CBI specializes in professional positions in a number of areas: sales and marketing; technical, health and life sciences; and corporate accounting, human resources, information technology, finance and legal services.
The agency placed Berlin with the lumber company. Before he began exploring contract positions, Berlin worked in management for Ernst & Young, a large accounting firm.
“I started taking temporary jobs in Pennsylvania and Delaware after I moved from New York to Exton,” he recalls. “I didn’t have any contacts in the area and this seemed like a good way to build a network.”
Sometimes, he finds his own positions, usually through referrals from previous clients. His assignments have lasted from three months to a year and a half. Pay ranges from $50 an hour—“if I’m in a lull”—to $125 an hour.
Berlin is responsible for the considerable expense of paying his own medical benefits. He doesn’t get a paid vacation or sick days.
“The other workers are off on Good Friday,” he says. “For me, it’s an unpaid day.”
Still, he enjoys the challenge of coming in and finding solutions for a variety of companies.
“As a temporary worker you can be extremely effective because you have no baggage, you have no favorites,” he says.
The Produce Marketing Association in Newark has been turning to contract workers for design, marketing and other services for the past four years. CBI acts as the filter, identifying candidates who can get up to speed quickly.
“It’s so dynamic, so fast-paced, we need someone who can jump in,” says Kelly Koczak, PMA vice president of marketing. “We are looking for people who are true collaborators with great energy, which is the ideal fit for our culture.”
Burkhard says there has been a structural realignment in thinking as both hiring managers and job seekers have grown more comfortable with the notion of short-term and interim solutions.
“The days of starting in the mailroom, working your way up and getting a gold watch after 30 years are over,” he says. “The recession made us all look at the way we do business differently.”
Looking forward, he believes there will be increased hiring, both temporary and permanent, as more businesses start growing again.
Burkhard’s informal barometer of the market—his teenage son’s network of Facebook friends—is trending upwards.
“All his friends who couldn’t find work are now getting jobs,” he says. “That tells me that fewer grownups are competing for those jobs.”