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Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:12 pm
by M. Adley
As a medical writer I see at least half of the advertised positions being through temp agencies. Furthermore, many of the non-temp positions are for people with more experience so if you're not going to network your way into a job, non-temp work seems hard to come by early on in your career, even at PhD level (requirement or "strongly preferred" for almost all positions that I've seen).

While the lack of job security is highly annoying, I'm actually pretty satisfied with the treatment I've received so far, so maybe it's just a matter of luck causing people to lose their passion for what they used to love. I can safely say that there are recruiters out there who really care about their contractors, as mine (no longer working at the company) used to call every couple of weeks to check on me and see how I liked the company I was temping at. I have been called by recruiters, though, who really didn't care and just wanted a list of names they could hoard (why are you asking a person with 1 year of experience to fill a director-level position?), so I can see how some people might have little faith in temp agencies.

As for how I've been treated, I think I've been treated every bit as well as permanent hires, sometimes even better. I've had positions at two places so far (one 6-month contract and one 18-month contract in progress but ending soon), and both had supervisors that saw me as an apprentice, not cheap labor. They both trained me in the nuts and bolts of regulatory med writing and included me in department functions as if I were permanent. When HR decided to cut temps at my first company (yes, you'll be the first to go), the 4 supervisors I worked with all went out of their way to help me find something new. Combined with my recruiter's help, I was given 2 job offers within 2 weeks of starting my search and had no dead time between positions. So temps aren't necessarily seen as second-class citizens, though medical writers are often freelance anyway so maybe it's different in my situation than a bench scientist. Just adding this to let you know that it's technically possible to be treated pretty well as a temp. This is NOT to say I won't pursue a permanent position because I certainly will if I don't get permanent hire at my current place (supervisor already recommended me but it's ultimately up to HR). I just don't think a temp worker has to be a "bottom feeder".

One last thing is that even if I'm not the top rung of the ladder (yet), this is leaps and bounds better than my postdoc/academia experience. From what I can tell, a "bottom-feeding" temp med writer is in paradise compared to even a successful postdoc (speaking from both my own and others' med writing/postdoc experiences). In other words, temp workers are treated better in general from what I've observed. Hope this gives you at least a little bit of hope

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 4:25 pm
by Kevin Foley

I do not discount your story, and I personally have zero knowledge when it comes to working in a "large food corp", but I do not think your experience is representative of the entire biotech/pharma industry.

In my 17+ years in industry, I've worked for 5 companies, ranging in size from 70 to 100,000 employees. In the drug discovery/preclinical/clinical groups I have been associated with, we certainly made use of temp labor, but in each case it would represent at most 5-10% of the employees (typically non-PhD level).

As I noted in an earlier post in this tread (it's very amusing to go back and read my old posts from way back in the day!), temps are typically being used as shorter-term flex capacity for an organization, and are not replacing full-time employees wholesale. At least this has been my experience (although we are ignoring outsourcing to CROs, which represent similar flexibility).

The good news is that you now have a full-time position, and are presumably doing well in it and learning new skills on the job, making you increasingly valuable. So there is no reason you should have to go back to temping in the future. Put your bad experience behind you and focus on a better future.

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 11:48 am
by Steven Z.
Indeed I am doing very well in my current position and plan to hang on to it for dear life. But I look at all the job boards and recruiter contacts and a large amount of them are temp and the pay rates offered and lack of benefits are pretty appalling roughly 35-50% of my current salary with no benefits.

Every day I hear of pharma layoffs, chemical plant shutdowns etc and many of the colleagues I graduated with are no longer in the profession or have a string of rather lousy transient jobs like post-doc or adjunct professor. The net is also flooded with horror stories. Heck even the Onion ran a piece on it. ... -well.html

If scientists were in as high demand as some of you seem to believe those agencies should wither and die very quickly or be forced to increase their pay rates and offer benefits like they do for in demand IT workers. Everything I've seen indicates the opposites that Kelly is now one of the nation's largest employers and many of the other agencies are exploding with growth. Their rates are not increasing and they seem to be having no problem getting people to take their low-ball jobs.

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:55 pm
by Dave Jensen
Steven, I sold my first business to one of these firms.. I know something about their mix of business, and while I don't speak for them, my impression is that they are good people, filling a need. Yes, they'd like it if people could make a career out of temping. But that's not going to happen for the smart scientists.

It's just a place to get some experience and go on with your career and a full-time role elsewhere. And, companies like that one do extremely little with PhD roles. They would work with BS and MS level folks, which is why you have experience there.


Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 3:54 pm
by Steven Z.
Indeed they are filling a need... a need for cheap disposable bench workers that companies can treat like pipette tips on what is becoming a race to the bottom.

You use temp agencies when you don't value nor have the necessity to value your workers and offer raises, benefits, and other niceties companies give real professionals to retain them. Very few of temp jobs listed nowadays are real short term projects or filling in for someone on maternity leave. In fact, a majority are listed as temp-to-hire except someone did a study and found only 27% are actually hired. The joke is on them.

Some of the large pharma practically have entire agencies at their disposal such as Manpower/Experis and Abbott labs or AMRI and Eli Lilly. ... ntier.html

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:06 pm
by Kevin Foley
Steven, I think you are being rather alarmist. You can't determine the entire state of the job market from or anecdotes from your friends.

My memory, the last time I saw an article on the subject, is that something like half of all jobs in the US never get advertised (internal hires, networking, etc. fill the positions). And a tiny percentage of all jobs are advertised on the major job boards. I would be curious if anyone has the latest numbers on this...

Anyway, out of curiosity, I just went on the Merck careers website and it turns out that they are currently advertising 251 jobs (make that 253, it actually went up by 2 while I was writing this post!) in the US, of which only 1 is temp. In "Research Science" (only one of multiple scientific categories), 45/45 of these are full-time.

Similarly, on the GSK careers website, 1000/1310 US jobs are full-time. In "R&D" (again, only one of multiple different scientific disciplines listed), 33/35 jobs are full-time.

Granted, it is possible that not all of their part-time positions get listed on their corporate website. However, I worked for one of these two companies for the past 5 years in a R&D group that is growing 10% this year, and as I said before, temps made up <5% of our workforce. I'm sure that number varies between groups in different areas, but that is my experience at one of the largest pharma companies on the planet.

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Fri Oct 09, 2015 7:02 pm
by Steven Z.
First off Monster and Careerbuilder are a joke and I never use them. They are a rats nest of temp agencies, multilevel marketers/insurance companies, for-profit scam colleges, and outright scammers. I rely more heavily on Indeed/search engines and industry/company specific boards, Linked-in recruiters (an not the burger flipping equivalents at staffing agencies) etc.

Secondly at what point should people get alarmed? When big pharma lays off scientists by the hundred thousands, the chemical industry continues to decline, BLS predicts anaemic growth at best for chemistry jobs, the jobs posted are heavily through temp agencies, the net is flooded with similar horror stories, the job offers I am seeing offer wages fit for a garbage man, people with science graduate degrees, some of the smartest people in the nation easily the top 10% in intellect are reporting more job difficulty than ex-cons, stats are coming out showing that a large portion and even majority of science grads aren't even working in science at all, entire blog sites exist to catalogue the problem (In The Pipe Line) and to put the cherry on top The Onion is openly mocking the profession and its job prospects the way they would for Poetry or Philosophy majors.

None of this is an indicator of the mythical healthy science job market some of the people here and elsewhere purport. People in in-demand fields still struggle somewhat to find jobs but not like this. Finding a job should not be harder than Physical Chemistry class.

I believe my eyes and would absolutely never let anyone in my family pursue a career in science nor advise anyone else to do so. To myself, that is like guiding a blind person in front of an oncoming truck.

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2015 6:22 am
by Yandorio
I tend to agree with you Steven Z.
What do you suppose went wrong? What would you do to fix things?
In my class at Univ of Calif before the PhD bubble the 50% top chem/bio students went into MD or PhD. The former seem to have steady employment
and a mean salary of about 120K, the latter are too often doing their 10th year of postdoc or unhappy as adjunct professor and looking for a way out. The ones that did get out right after the PhD (to law firms
or Bio tech investment, etc) seem to have more stable jobs than the
die hards. This doesn't paint a pretty picture of the science route.
Incidentally the ones who got the MD and the PhD seem to be mostly
physicians now.

Re: Are temp agencies a stepping stone or bottom feeders

PostPosted: Sun Oct 11, 2015 12:02 pm
by Dave Jensen
Forum Readers:

This forum is here to help people who are already on the science or engineering career tracks. Because of this, I've locked this thread now from further comments. Anyone who is interested can find some interesting content in the thread where the original topic was discussed -- temp agencies. I think the question of whether or not they have value is clearly of interest to our audience.

As the thread digressed however, there were certain readers who come here to complain and not really help; basically, we have a few who want to poison the well for anyone considering a science career. I've kept their posts intact, but I'm shutting down the thread because these kinds of personalities will not leave this topic alone.

Both sides of any discussion are valued. But the focus of any topic on the Forum must be directed to helping young scientists and engineers with their science/engineering career decisions and their job interviewing/finding skills. That's what our mission is -- our mission is not to discuss whether or not the field is worth pursuing in the first place.

I ask my advisor team to please delete without apology any post, on either side of any discussion, that comes across as a "rant" from now on.


Dave Jensen, Moderator