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Temporary jobs: Everything you need to know

Window cleaner working on a glass facade in a gondola

Temporary work is always a good way to learn transferable skills for a future career, but they have become even more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are looking at your options and trying to think of a few ways to ensure you can keep money flowing into your household, temporary jobs might be the perfect solution.

What you’ll learn in this article


Why consider temporary work now?

In an ideal world, nobody would be at risk of losing their permanent position, but the reality looks very different to this. Plenty of businesses are being forced to lay off staff or make them redundant, as they simply have no way to pay their wages, which is why temporary workers are going to be critical, both to individual businesses and the economy.

Look at it this way: when the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end, the UK will need to spring into action quickly to rebuild the economic backbone of the country. Staff will need to get back to work and start paying taxes again, to reimburse benefits and business bailouts and there are few quicker ways to embrace a full workforce than by utilising temps. 

With this in mind, it makes sense to start temping as soon as possible so you can get used to jumping from one short-term position to another and start accruing new skills to add to your CV.

💡 Read more: How to stay motivated in your job search


How many temporary jobs are there in my area?

When it comes to career positions, you’ll most likely be willing to commit to a little commuting for the right opportunity, but temporary jobs need to be local and easily accessible, which is why searching by county is an excellent filter to start with.

Take a look at the table below to find out how many temporary jobs there are near you and what you could expect to earn if you get one (data sourced from live vacancies from 2nd of April 2020):

LocationNumber of temporary jobs availableAverage salary
East Sussex3,159£35,310
Greater Manchester4,304£27,058
West Yorkshire2,282£25,049
South Yorkshire1,415£26,487
Cardiff County713£28,814
North East England1,371£26,481
Northern Ireland516£29,935

Obviously, you’ll need to take the current COVID-19 situation into account, but despite how many industries are grinding to a halt and the vast number of companies closing their doors for an undisclosed period of time, there are some positions that desperately need to be filled with temporary workers.

💡 Upload your CV to our Value My CV tool and find out which temporary jobs are a good match with your skills and experience.


What are the best temporary jobs to apply for now?

We’ve identified the top 5 and some of the most common roles:

🔎 Supermarket and retail temporary jobs

Shelf filling in supermarkets

Any shop considered to be a key outlet is allowed to stay open, but there is a huge demand for extra staff to keep shelves stocked and customers served as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Potential roles:

Skills needed to secure these roles: 

  • Basic literacy and numeracy
  • Flexibility with shift patterns
  • Previous customer-facing experience

Top company currently hiring for these positions: Tesco (immediate start and temporary roles)

🔎 Admin and secretarial temporary jobs

Female receptionist working at the front desk

Organisational roles are still considered vital, with many clerical staff being able to work from home. 

Potential roles:

Skills needed to secure these roles:

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Reliability
  • Clerical experience (including IT proficiency and typing ability)

Top company currently hiring for these positions: NHS

🔎 Immediate-start temporary jobs

Immediate start online tutor

Roles that have become vacant with little or no warning and have to be filled quickly. These will range from skilled to unskilled positions and pay varies accordingly. You could benefit financially if something you have done before, to a high standard, is being recruited for.

Potential roles:

Skills needed to secure these roles:

  • Relevant degree (for tutor positions)
  • IT proficiency
  • Communication skills

Top company currently hiring for these positions: Spires Online Tutoring

🔎 No-experience temporary jobs

Woman working, professional maid cleaning and washing floor with machinery in industrial building
Woman working, professional maid cleaning and washing floor with machinery in industrial building

If you’re new to the job market or haven’t ever undertaken anything skilled before, you’ll need to start your search with the no-experience-necessary vacancies. 

Potential roles:

Skills needed to secure these roles:

  • Punctuality
  • Good work ethic
  • Willingness to learn

🔎 Temporary driving jobs

Temporary van driving

Social distancing rules mean that taxi-style jobs are not a viable way to make a living at the moment, so if you have driving experience and skills, other transportation options could be a perfect fit. 

Potential roles:

Skills needed to secure these roles:

  • Clean, valid driving licence
  • Communication skills
  • Excellent local knowledge is beneficial

Top company currently hiring for these positions: Tesco


How do I get a temporary job?

Applying for temporary jobs can be far removed from trying to snag a permanent position, most notably because the skills and personal qualities you’ll need will be drastically different.

Things employers look for in temporary staff include:

  • Transferable skills – you’ll need to hit the ground running in a temporary role and there isn’t often any time allotted to training. You need to be able to get in, get to work and complete whatever needs doing in your working day with little to no guidance.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills – the ability to blend into a team of people quickly and to understand the hierarchy and offer support where needed is critical. If you take a long time to warm up to a new crowd, temporary work might not be suited to you.
  • A professional thick skin – when there isn’t time for a lot of training or explaining, you might find that employers are a little brusque, especially if tight deadlines are looming. You’ll need to be professional and not take things personally.
  • A strong work ethic – this is vital. You’ll need to be the kind of person that wants to work hard, get paid and move on to the next job, fast. A desire to earn money and complete tasks to a high standard will make you a very popular temporary worker.
  • Adaptability – if you can learn quickly, enjoy change and don’t mind if two days are never the same, employers will recognise you’re a valuable resource that can be relied on to give your all in any role, regardless of how long you’re needed.

Of course, all of these skills are needed for permanent work as well, but you have the luxury of being able to take longer to demonstrate them.

Let’s assume that you’re in possession of all the requisite skills to make you an exceptional temporary worker…what now? Knowing how to look for roles will give you a better chance of securing a few, so it’s time to expand your search terms and include a few different terms, including:

There are no rules when it comes to hiring temporary staff, so you need to think a little more outside the box and try to imagine what different companies and sectors would call non-permanent roles. By doing this, you’ll find far more positions to apply for.

💡 Read more: Working remotely guide


Is it easy to get a temporary job?

Delivery driver checking his list on clipboard in a large warehouse

This depends on your existing skills, which kind of jobs you are applying for and how popular they are. The easiest positions to secure will be those that require no experience at all, or retail opportunities.

Essentially, the fewer qualifications you need and the less specialist the position, the easier it should be to get, but don’t forget to take into account the fact that more candidates are likely to apply. You’ll still need to set yourself apart by demonstrating your suitability.

💡 Read more: Tips for successful video interview


Is contracting bad for your career?

Some people still believe that contracting is bad for your career, as it prevents you from building up a solid chunk of work experience within one company. This is absolutely not the case, although if you are concerned, you can simply list all of your contracting experience as one CV entry.

If anything, contracting is extremely good for your future career, as you are able to pick up a wealth of transferable skills, practise your interpersonal communication and enjoy focusing on something you genuinely enjoy and show a natural aptitude for.

Future employers should be nothing but impressed if you can talk about new competencies that contracting has afforded you. Plus, if you can demonstrate that spending some time as a temporary worker has given you time to make a decision about your aspirations, it shows growth, determination and a readiness to start a meaningful career.

If you’ve taken a number of short-term retail jobs or maybe admin positions, there are numerous skills that can be applied to other industries. For example, working in retail means you’ll have honed your customer-service skills which are essential for any client-facing role. Admin roles will have helped you fine-tune your organisational abilities and workload prioritisation, too, which can be applied everywhere.


Is working at a temping agency a good idea?

In short, yes. Working with an agency takes all the hard work out of your job searches. Once you’ve registered, usually completing a few simple tests as part of the process, your skills can be matched to a number of roles your agency needs to fill. From there, it’s a simple case of answering the phone when they call, accepting a new assignment and going off for a day of earning!

Temp agencies want reliable workers who are keen to earn money and get repeat contracts. The harder you work and the more reliable you are, the more work you’ll be offered, with increasingly prestigious or well-paid opportunities usually coming your way as well. If you represent the agency to a high standard, it will be reflected in your wage packet. As an added bonus, agencies usually pay on a weekly basis, meaning you can keep your cash flow regular and your bills paid.


Can you collect unemployment benefit if you have a temporary job?

Unemployment benefits have been replaced by Universal Credit and can be applied for by anyone on a low income, subject to savings declarations and age. 

The Universal Credit work allowance refers to the amount of money you are allowed to earn before your benefit payments become affected. There are also other sources of income that can affect how much you get, so watch out for:

  • Pension income
  • Benefits that were not replaced by Universal Credit

Disability payments do not normally affect Universal Credit support, nor does Child Benefit or any maintenance payments for children under 18. 

Although you used to be able to work up to 16 hours a week and still claim Income Support, things have changed dramatically to be based on accrued earnings, not hours worked. It will be your responsibility to make sure that you declare earnings over your threshold, to stay compliant with the law. Failure to do so can result in fines, demands for overpayments to be returned and your benefits being stopped.


Temporary work offers you a huge amount of flexibility, the opportunity to gain experience in a range of sectors and new skills that you might not have ever thought likely. It’s a great option for anyone who enjoys change but can also be an excellent way to ‘try before you buy’. If you find a sector and a position you really enjoy, you can look to make that your permanent career.