How to Find Work Through a Portland Staffing Agency

Temporary work can be a good option for people returning to the workforce or between permanent jobs. A short-term assignment helps pay your bills, grows your professional network, and lets employers see what you can do.

Portland has a large number of staffing companies that arrange temporary jobs. To learn more about working as a temp in Oregon, I talked with Pat Welch, co-founder of Boly:Welch, a Portland-based agency that places people in accounting, finance, legal, office, human resources, technology and marketing jobs.  Answers below have been edited for brevity and clarity.

What kinds of jobs do Portland staffing agencies offer today?

There are many, many kinds of staffing agencies. And when you say staffing it can mean anything from a one-day part-time janitorial job at Memorial Coliseum . . . to a direct hire of a CEO. It’s the whole gamut.

Staffing is everything. It’s direct hire, it’s consulting, contract positions, etc. Agencies specialize in different things.

At Boly:Welch, we began as a direct hire company primarily for administrative jobs, legal jobs, and bookkeeping jobs. Now, we hire people at all levels in those fields and more for permanent and temporary positions.

Is there a typical applicant at staffing agencies?

Most people do not come into our office looking to temp, or even to consult. Most of them come in looking for direct hire positions.

While we’re looking for that perfect fit for them, temping keeps the wolf from the door. If you’re temping and you have enough money coming in it allows you to wait for the right job.

What can temporary workers expect to earn in Portland?

It’s all over the board. At Boly:Welch, we have everything from $10 an hour jobs, to $300 an hour consulting positions.

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Are there other advantages to temping besides making money?

I see it as a paid interview. Temping is an opportunity for you to go out to a company and show them who you are and they’re paying you for it as opposed to going and applying for a job. At Boly:Welch, 40% of the temps we send out get offers for permanent positions.

Sometimes a client will say, “We’re not really sure what we need. We know we need to hire somebody, but we’re not sure what skill sets we need, so let’s bring in a temp to hold down the fort while we evolve the job description.”

That “hold down the fort” is a great opportunity for a temp to show what they can do and for people who are unemployed to get jobs that they would never get if they just applied.

It’s human nature. You work with who you like.

How else can temping help you find a permanent job?

If I’m an employer looking to hiring someone permanently who was unemployed I want to hear that they’ve been out there in the workforce doing something and they have a work ethic. I want to talk to somebody who saw them last week and can say how they did. Temping also provides recent references.

What advice would you give someone considering working as a temp?

Know who you are and what your competitive position is in the marketplace.

Practice your flexibility and likability. Know when you’re available and when you’re not. Bone up on your skills before you go to an agency. Have your addresses and references and numbers with you so that you don’t leave that blank on an application and have to call back later.

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To learn more about temporary work in Portland and elsewhere in the state, visit the excellent Boly:Welch blog.