By Janet Groene, F47166
You’re a medical transcriptionist, an expert on oil well fires, a highly specialized Wi-Fi installer, or even a top executive at a major corporation. You long to go full-timing, but you must continue to work. Can you have your cake and eat it, too?
Temporary work, or “temping,” has come a long way since the days when it meant a routine typing job or a day’s labor at the loading docks. Temping has moved into the 21st century with all the bells and whistles that today’s workers want and today’s employers require.
In the past, this column has covered Workamping (most recently in “The Full-Timer Explosion,” April 2002, page 136). It’s a service that matches temporary or seasonal employees with business and government employers, many of them connected with the camping world. Workamping is still one of the best ways for full-timers to find jobs, especially jobs for a couple who want to work in the same park or campground. However, full-timers with special education and skills can continue to command the high salaries and standards of their professional peers while living the mobile life. The key is finding the right temp agency for you.
Temping offers a long list of benefits, beginning with the concept itself. Both employer and employee understand that the job is temporary. There are no hard feelings when you move on, and you are not in danger of being labeled as a job-hopper. At the same time, you know that another employee may be promoted ahead of you or a permanent employee may be hired in your place. It’s understood that you’re a seasoned professional, but are also a rolling stone.
Temping also has dollars and cents value. Hourly wages tend to be higher because, as a temp, you receive no benefits. You may have to start with less pay for your first month or two with an agency while you prove yourself; but then, because you receive no employee benefits, you can command a higher wage per hour.
Some large temp agencies offer benefits such as a health plan, retirement, paid vacation, and perhaps even a dollar-matched 401(k) plan. Decide whether you want to remain a free agent with no benefits and higher fees, or an employee of a temp agency that offers full benefits. It isn’t cost-effective to settle for a blend of both, because partial benefits are rarely worth the extra paperwork for taxes and the hassle of finding jobs on an as-needed basis.
While it’s nice to receive employee benefits from these large agencies, there is a price. You probably will have to agree to work a minimum number of hours per month, every month of the year. On the plus side, you also build up seniority, increased benefits, and a growing resume by staying with one agency. That will look good if you ever want to settle down and get back on the career ladder. However, you may be the last hired, first fired. Loyalty is a two-way street, and building a career as a professional temp with an agency or large company gets you a parking spot on that street.
The more demand for your job skills, the better you can control the deal. Right now, professionals (managers, CEOs, certain engineers, and some technical and medical workers) are in high demand, and clerical workers almost always can find a slot. But the dot-com bust threw many tech workers into the unemployment line. The temporary market became flooded with these folks, even though they intend to freelance only until a full-time position comes along.
For most highly skilled temps, it’s essential to work with a specialized agency, because it’s hard to find work in a national marketplace on your own and juggle schedules. When you’re on the go as a full-timer, it’s even more important to connect with an agency that knows your field, can send you where the jobs are, and will track you down no matter where you are.
To get started as a temp worker, check the local Yellow Pages and contact every temp agency that appears to have a national footprint. Try Web sites such as www.adecco.com, www.kellyservices.com, www.kforce.com, and www.manpower.com. Other Web sites worth a look include www.zeal.com, where you can find a list of temp agencies; and www.crosscountrytravcorps.com and www.employment-plus.com for temping in the health care industry, as well as others. Visit www. airetel.com if you are interested in technical and engineering jobs, and www.laborworksusa.com for a variety of industrial jobs. See www.accountemps.com for positions in accounting and finance.
Debit card alert
Would your debit card be refused if you had insufficient funds? The answer could be no. In that case, your account would go into overdraft mode and rack up fees of $30 per instance. If you’re prone to losing track of your balance, call your bank and find out what happens if your balance dips below zero. Each card issuer has its own policies. You might ask the company to refuse overdrafts at the point of sale, which could save the penalty, but could be embarrassing if you don’t have cash to cover the groceries or a restaurant meal. Or, sign up for overdraft protection, which transfers money from your savings account to the debit account, usually for a fee. The ultimate protection, of course, is to keep accurate records.
The cat’s meow
Petmate’s new Kennel Cab is good news for traveling pets, because it has a seat belt slot in the roof and shoulder-strap eyelets to secure the carrier in any vehicle. Made of lightweight, molded plastic, the crate is well ventilated; has a carrying handle; and contains a storage compartment for the leash, water bowl, and treats. A “moat” around the bottom channels spills away from the pet in case of accidents. The Kennel Cab is sized for small, medium, intermediate, and large pets. It comes with a tan-colored top section and a brown (small), maroon (medium), hunter green (intermediate), or navy blue (large) bottom section. For more information, contact Petmate at (877) 738-6283 or visit www.petmate.com.
Books for travelers
Travel is broadening, the old saying goes. Surrounded by good food, camaraderie, potlucks, and conviviality, RVers have a special battle against flab. Andrew Flach’s new book, Combat Fat! America’s Revolutionary 8-Week Fat-Loss Program ($15.95 paperback, $23.95 hardcover, Hatherleigh Press) has a lively “guy” feeling about it. In his book, Mr. Flach, who is certified by the American Council on Exercise, emphasizes the importance of staying trim and demonstrates in pictures and words realistic ways to eat and exercise even when on the road. Walk the walk, try the delicious recipes, and you’re the “loser.”
Much of the fun of full-time travel is eating in ethnic restaurants, which can be tough for those who don’t speak other languages and downright dangerous for people with food allergies. The European Menu Translator ($8.95, Creative Minds Press/Beagle Bay Books), by Whitney H. Galbraith and Anne T. Galbraith, is a pocket-sized guide that demystifies the dishes of France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. If you want to order vegetarian food in a German restaurant, or explain to a Mexican waiter that you’re diabetic, or wonder what is in zabaglione (Marsala wine and eggs), this little gem is a great help.
If you’re a single woman looking for the courage to go full-timing on your own, read Monster Lies: A Woman’s Guide To Controlling Her Destiny ($25, Beagle Bay Books) by motivational speakers Sally Franz and Jennifer Webb. It’s not just an inspiring, empowering “woman’s guide to controlling her destiny” “” it’s a workbook with blanks to fill in and courses of action that lead you away from fear and self-doubt. The book is found in bookstores and online at www.beaglebay.com.
Maureen Ogle’s Key West: History Of An Island Of Dreams is a new hardback from University of Florida Press ($24.95) that is sure to be welcomed as a permanent addition to the library of snowbirds who love the Sunshine State. Key West is a world apart, a blend of the Caribbean, colorful characters, and beach blanket bingo. Those who love the place will relish every page of this history.
Johnny Malloy is a gifted outdoor author who writes about soft-adventure trips that almost anyone can do and everyone loves to read about. His new book, From The Swamp To The Keys: A Paddle Through Florida History ($19.95, University Press of Florida), traces his two-month journey from Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp to the Florida Keys. Along the way, readers learn about the history “” and natural history “” of the Sunshine State.
Both books can be found in bookstores, at online booksellers, or by visiting www.upf.com.
For everyone who loves life in the slow lane, the third edition of Bill Simpson’s book, Guide To The Amish Country ($12.95, Pelican Publishing Co.), takes you to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Mr. Simpson provides extensive directions on where to eat, shop, sightsee, observe Amish life, and participate in local festivals. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t cover other major Amish areas in the United States, such as those in Ohio and Indiana.
Dress in a bag
In ancient times, kings wore robes made of cloth so fine they could be drawn through a wedding ring. Now full-timers who are pinched for space can carry a supple, versatile dress in a bag the size of a kitten. Dress in a Bag comes in five styles, in a variety of colors and prints, and in four sizes. The fabrics wash like a handkerchief and require no ironing. They are clingy, however, so it helps to have figure-shaping undergarments and a jacket or sweater to wear as a cover-up. Prices range from $50 to $72. Learn more at www.dressinabag.com or call (866) 443-7377.