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5 Great Short-Term Jobs

Temporary work can bulk up your résumé and your wallet

Contract, temporary, and part time work optimal choice for older workers.

Don't discount the possibility of temporary contract jobs or part-time work during your job search. — Getty Images

En español | Organizations are relying on temporary workers more than ever. According to the Department of Commerce, the number of jobs in the temporary help services industry, which includes everything from office support to chauffeuring, reached a peak of 2.9 million, or 2.4 percent of all private-sector jobs, in May 2015.

Taking on temporary workers can save a fast-growing small business from overstaffing while testing out future employees, says Gwenn Rosener, a founder of FlexProfessionals, a recruiting and staffing company in the Washington, D.C., area.

The work can be an attractive option if you're retired and need extra money. If you're employed and looking to switch careers or land a new position, contract work allows you to try out a job and keep your résumé alive at the same time.

If you're looking for a full-time job with benefits, that might be harder to find these days. But contract work could lead to full-time employment, so think of it as an opportunity to impress.

Firms like FlexProfessionals place college-educated workers who have 10-plus years of professional experience, are willing to work between 10 and 30 hours a week, and want flexible work schedules.

If that schedule appeals to you, here are five small-business jobs you might consider. Rosener says these jobs "require special knowledge or expertise that the [small-business] owners don't have, or have the time to learn."

Pay ranges will vary based on experience and where you live, and are primarily derived from U.S. Department of Labor data, which was most recently updated in May 2015. For more salary examples, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.

1. Bookkeeping and accounting

The nitty-gritty: Jump into this one with a sharp pencil. Owners have usually been doing this job themselves, but they discover they're snowed under and need to concentrate on building the business. You're likely to confront a backlog of bills to be paid and accounts to be reconciled. Chances are that there's not a proper ledger or accounting system in place, either. Typically, bookkeeping or accounting positions start off part time (as little as one or two days a month) and then gradually expand into more of a commitment if the business grows.

Median pay: The BLS reports that the median hourly wage for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks is $17.91.

Qualifications: For accounting work, an accounting degree is usually required. A certified public accountant (CPA) certification is best. Knowing how to use the software package QuickBooks is often a requirement for smaller businesses. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers bookkeeper certification, as does the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. Community colleges and universities in your area are good places to look for continuing education offerings.

2. Human resources manager

The nitty-gritty: As a company hires more employees, tasks such as recruiting, benefits administration, payroll and employee relations all become vital to building a top team. Someone who knows employment law and practices, as well as recruiting and employee screening techniques, can save a business time and prevent potential personnel problems.

Median pay: $50.21 per hour. A typical range is $30 to $100 per hour. The higher range is for specialized knowledge in areas such as compensation and technical recruiting.

Qualifications: Many professional associations offer certification programs. Although certification is usually optional, some employers prefer or require it. Check out the Society for Human Resource Management for educational offerings.

3. Office manager

The nitty-gritty: This position is generally at the core of a company. It can easily morph into a full-time post if you're looking for one. You're often a bookkeeper, an office supply manager and a salesperson. You could find yourself recruiting new employees, handling employment paperwork, scheduling vacations and even running recycling programs.

Median pay: BLS breaks down office support occupations into a variety of different types, from telephone operators to payroll clerks. When combined, the median hourly wage is $15.96. For higher-level operations management, it can be $50-plus per hour.

Qualifications: Nothing trumps experience in a similar high-paced job. A strong work background that demonstrates managerial chops and ease with juggling a variety of roles is what this position comes down to. The business owner wants to instantly feel that things are being turned over to a capable pro who can keep the trains running on time. The International Facility Management Association offers a competency-based professional certification program for administrative services managers that might be worth exploring.

4. Sales representative

The nitty-gritty: Marketing and sales are the heartbeat of a small business. But as the company expands, it gets tricky. If the owner's time is spread too thin, he or she may have trouble devoting enough time to continually pump up new business and follow up on leads. An energetic and skilled salesperson who is adept at cold-calling, networking for new clients and keeping existing accounts happy can keep things rolling while the owner focuses on big-picture strategies. This can be grueling work if you're thin-skinned, especially when it comes to cold-calling. So slip on your persuasive shoes, and polish up your confidence and composure. It's meet-and-greet time.

Median pay: The pay for sales representative positions varies widely depending on the product or service involved. BLS reports that for wholesale and manufacturing sales of technical and scientific products, the median hourly wage is $36.63, while for all other products, it's $26.79. Many positions are structured with base pay plus commission.

Qualifications: Business owners look for candidates who know their market, have experience in their industry and have established relationships and contacts. Experience with "customer relationship management" software such as Salesforce may help. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many people in this occupation have either certified professional manufacturers representative (CPMR) or certified sales professional (CSP) certification, both offered by the Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation. Obtaining these credentials typically involves completing formal technical training and passing an exam.

5. Web strategist

The nitty-gritty: A website is the public face of a firm and a prime marketing tool for most businesses these days. Potential customers want to be able to find a company on the web and conduct business online — without ever picking up a phone. A savvy small-business operator will want to bring on board an expert who can pinpoint the best ways to leverage the web and social media to grow the business. That's where you come in. You may be hired to do one piece of a plan, but many start-ups need someone who can do it all. You may be a techie and create applications like a retail checkout tool or write software code. Your creative side may be called on to design the layout of the website and incorporate audio, graphics and video. The job might entail monitoring website traffic, answering comments, updating content and fixing broken links.

Median pay: BLS doesn't yet have a job category for web strategists, but PayScale.com, a salary comparison website, says pay typically ranges from $35 to over $75 per hour. Social media pros can earn around $25 per hour.

Qualifications: Graphic design experience and a computer degree. For design, you'll need expertise in the Adobe Creative Suite of design tools, such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For programming, coding experience in HTML, CSS and JavaScript is important, as well as familiarity with content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. If it's social media they're after, you must know how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to reach target markets, and you must be a good writer.

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her books include What's Next? Finding Your Passion and Your Dream Job in Your Forties, Fifties and Beyond and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon.

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