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WorkWise: No jobs? The dynamics have changed.

September 13, 2011

By Mildred L. Culp

The Bureau of Labor Statistics continues its drone about the job market, shaping negative thinking and discouraging people from job hunting and spending. A spokesperson reports that it doesn’t ask employers if a job is temporary or permanent. In addition, BLS funnels all jobs into the specific industry where the job resides. You could read BLS every month and be completely oblivious to the growing cluster of temp jobs.

To find out what’s happening right now, I interviewed three temporary agencies spanning the country and a digital advertising agency. Their upbeat responses to my questions confirmed what I know to be true. The market has changed. Corporations are hiring and business at staffing companies is brisk. Employers are more willing to communicate with applicants. Of course, if you’re unemployed or just ready to change directions and are practical, you might go after a temporary assignment or contract to get on track.

Charlie Allport, executive vice president at West Valley Staffing Group Inc. in Silicon Valley, Calif., shares bright news about his contract and temp staffing in software, engineering, finance and accounting, and clerical/administrative. He mentions that the last 18 months have brought “a steady increase in demand in Silicon Valley’s semi-conductor-related software, solar/green tech, wireless technology, cloud computing and, especially, software and IT-related assignments, with a trickle-down effect for other business we support.” Talented software engineers get snapped up. He maintains that the area’s constant reinvention keeps creating opportunity.

At the opposite end of the country, Kim Cottage comments, after 20 years in staffing, “Business is very much up.” She’s vice president of Key Accounts and Marketing at GreyStone Staffing Inc., headquartered on Long Island, N.Y., with an office in Manhattan. GreyStone specializes in placing temps, with some direct hire, in office support, accounting and finance, IT, health care, science and industrial. Some of her clients provide enhanced skill training.

Cottage is watching employers hire temporaries in all kinds of jobs, “with the intent of going direct based on performance and economic demand,” she says. Assignments converting to direct hire after two to three weeks, or, more frequently, 90 days, have increased about 35 percent. Growth is coming from aerospace, laboratories and customer service in communications, distribution, manufacturing, aerospace and health care.

The Midwest has good news, too. Columbus, Ohio’s Terri Price-Deep, talent manager at Portfolio Creative LLC, is observing two hopeful signs. “Clients are more willing to take on direct hires to start,” she reports, “which is a sign of the economy opening up.” She’s also seeing more temps converted to direct hires.

“There’s a huge need for interactive designers and developers, who are very hard to find,” she says. “The ones who are good are working. I tell colleagues and friends to make sure their kids grow up to be interactive designers. In addition, we need copywriters with advertising experience, not just background in journalism.” Her firm also places in graphic design, marketing and account executive positions among large retailers, corporations and ad agencies.


In a very different environment, Seattle’s Louis Vong is watching employers meet job seekers through social media. He advocates the use of social media for several reasons, not just because it’s a trend. Vong is vice president of Digital Strategy at TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications LLC, a digital advertising agency headquartered in New York.

“Social media creates new behavior among job seekers and employers,” Vong observes. “When you follow a company on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, you expect two-way conversations.

“Before social media,” he adds, “applicants might feel as if their resume fell into a black hole and might not ever speak to a recruiter or someone in a company.” Vong concedes, however, that some employers contradict themselves by developing a presence in social media but not responding.

It’s back to the drawing board. If you want to find employment, you can. Gain new perspective and hunt.


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