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Why Part-Time or Contract Work Is Worth It

While you still might want to work full-time, don't discount the experience from temp jobs

A stack of books against an orange background.

Define your work and financial goals: Pick up Great Jobs for Everyone 50+ today!

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., (www.wiley.com), Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy ... and Pays the Bills by Kerry Hannon, © 2012 by AARP.

Remember to go to the AARP home page every day for tips on keeping healthy and sharp, and great deals.

To keep business trucking along, roughly one-third of companies hire contract or temporary workers, recently, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals. "It's an easy way for employers to get great experienced staff and save money at the same time," says Art Koff, founder of RetiredBrains.com, a job search site for older workers. That can be good news for many of you, and it's especially true if you're a retiree and need some extra money to boost your current retirement income.

Under those circumstances, part-time or contract jobs are often perfect. They can pay enough to bolster income from investments and Social Security, often without exceeding the limits that would require a reduction in Social Security payments. Even if your Social Security payment is reduced due to earnings, those benefits are not truly lost. At your full retirement age, your payment will be increased to account for the benefits withheld. For more about working while receiving Social Security, see AARP Social Security For Dummies or contact the Social Security Administration (ssa.gov).

For all types of job seekers, though, there are scores of reasons why part-time or contract work is worth it. Here are a few to ponder:

Kerry Hannon's new book is entitled Great Jobs for Everyone over 50+

Kerry Hannon's newest book details why part-time or contract work is worth your time. — Michael J.N. Bowles

  • It gives you something to do. Don't discount this. Having a sense of purpose is a great thing for all kinds of reasons.
  • It gets you in the door. It may lead to full-time work with an employer eventually. Don't miss the opportunity.
  • It gets you decent pay. You can make your experience a plus. Employers are typically willing to pay you generously, providing you have the chops and solve their problem or need quickly. It lets them bypass the hand-holding and learning curve stage that a younger, less experienced, but lower-paid worker might require.
  • It builds your professional network. Nurture relationships with coworkers during your assignment. You never know where contacts may lead you, and whom they might be able to refer you to for future jobs.
  • It lands you new and au courant references for future employers to contact about what you've been up to lately.
  • It keeps your résumé alive. It's a bone to stave off the disgrace of those gaping holes of idleness in your résumé.
  • It keeps your skills sharp. You know the mantra: Use it or lose it.
  • Contract work, particularly, lets you get psyched about a work project without the pressure of long-term expectations. No job is forever, anyway. This one just might be shorter than most, and that can be tremendously freeing.

You can't expect that part-time or contract positions will lead to a full-time or ongoing position. I know that. If it is a job or a company that turns you on, though, you can subtly let it be known that you'd love an opportunity to be considered for a full-time position should things change. And, please, don't take it personally if it doesn't.

Even if it's just what it claims to be, a part-time or short-term job, you still win, in my experience. First, it might be just the flexible work schedule you're looking for. Second, if it's a permanent, full-time job you really want, it still has your back.

What I mean by that is when you're making money, the truth is you feel better about yourself. You feel valued, and that's cool. It builds confidence. That's far healthier than shooting out résumés and not getting a single response. And seriously, you never know what might come your way when you back away from the computer screen.

Kerry Hannon, AARP's jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy…and Pays the Bills.

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