HR Insights

Can a Temporary Job Teach You New Skills?

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Mary Springer
August 17, 2023

Are you looking for ways to update your current skill set? You’re never too old to learn something new, and temporary jobs may offer you a chance to gain valuable experience as you explore new industries and proficiencies.

Learning on the job

People in the training industry like to talk about the 70-20-10 Model for Learning and Development. This school of thought believes that different experiences contribute to your overall knowledge base. About 70% of what you learn comes from on-the-job experiences. Meanwhile, 20% comes from interactions with others, while 10% comes from formal education.

How does this translate into a temporary job? Suppose you’ve taken some formal online courses in Excel, the popular spreadsheet program that is used in so many professional settings. If you are going to excel in Excel, though, you need to put your knowledge to work, literally. Your formal training accounts for only about 10% of what you are going to learn about Excel. You’re looking for a mentor or manager who can show you some of the specific Excel tasks that formal training didn’t cover. That’s where the 20% number above comes in. The other 70% of your Excel knowledge will come from that daily experience to make you comfortable with the program.

Enter the temporary job. Many permanent job listings require Excel proficiency, and you may not feel like you’re there yet. However, a temporary job may give you a chance to improve upon your Excel knowledge while you’re exercising those skills regularly. When the contract is up, your resume can be updated to include “proficient in Excel,” which makes you a much more valuable candidate for open positions.

Acquiring transferable skills

Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about transferable skills, which also contribute to your resume. Transferable skills are those soft skills that play a hard role in workplace productivity. Whether you’re a recent graduate or someone who has been out of the workforce for a while, you may wonder how you’re going to attain the transferable skills you need to be a valuable contributor. What sort of skills can you learn when you’re working in a temporary position?

Teamwork contributes to a company’s overall performance. When a temporary assignment sends you to a new setting, you’re forced to become acquainted with different people and personalities, and you learn to work harmoniously with others.

Organization comes in handy when you’re working in a temporary job. If you’re moving from one job to another over a short period of time, you must keep your tasks and priorities in order. If you’re not the most organized person – and we’re not judging anyone – a few temporary positions may force you to stay on top of what’s going on, whether you’re taking better notes or working on time management skills.

Communication is yet another skill that you’ll be using in a temporary role, especially as you’re meeting people and getting your brain around your new tasks. Communication is key to productivity on the job, and learning to communicate effectively can make you a much more valuable candidate!

Learning to explore new industries

Have you ever wanted to find out what it’s like to work in a different industry? Some fields may seem glamorous to an outsider, but you really won’t know what they’re like until you’re inside the office doors. Other industries might sound dull or boring, but that changes once you’re working for them and learning about potential career paths and opportunities. Temporary jobs can open the door to a world of industries you never consider exploring. For instance, you may have thought you weren’t a good match for a medical office setting, because you’ve always been squeamish about visiting the doctor. A temporary placement in a doctor’s office may reveal that you love being part of someone’s healthcare journey.

Granted, temporary jobs aren’t the answer for someone who is looking to switch careers and needs specific, intensive training. A temporary job can introduce you to the airline industry, but you won’t be earning your pilot’s license there. However, temporary jobs are a valuable option for employees who are trying to shift their focus and acquire new job skills that will give them a fresh professional outlook.

These aren’t your mother’s temporary jobs. Today’s temporary jobs can leave lasting impressions and introduce you to new skills and new people within your professional network. The schoolchildren aren’t the only ones who can learn something new this fall. Check out our job board or reach out to That’s Good HR to find out how we can help you grow into a new career or professional opportunity.