North Texan online > past issues > summer 2000
The North Texan Online Homepage North Texan Online Current Issue past issues contact us
University of North Texas Home Page


Saving Nature's Shaders
Caught Up in the Web

Operatic Voices
Why I Teach
The Rules According to English
Archival Main Page



AS SOON AS LIZ GEORGE (’99 M.B.A.) OF DALLAS EARNED her first accounting degree, she took a good job and envisioned working her way up her firm’s corporate ladder until her retirement.

That was the plan, but everything changed when her employer went out of business.

“That’s when I decided it would be better to work for myself,” George says. “I knew my accounting knowledge and software skills were marketable, and there were plenty of companies that needed my skills and knowledge. So it just made sense for me to become a contract worker.”

According to Dennis Engels, Regents Professor of counseling, development and higher education, George represents a growing number of people in today’s work force who are working on a contractual basis rather than becoming permanent employees.

“It used to be that you expected to work for one or two companies over the course of a career,” Engels says. “But now that has changed. For example, one of my former classmates has been working his way up in one company for 30 years, and that system has worked for him. However, his children … are all successful contract workers who change jobs every few months.”


More jobs, more free agents

Engels says the contract job market is the product of good economic times. Right now, so many jobs are available that most companies find it easier to use contract labor and to go through temporary employment agencies.

Engels advises today’s job seekers to adopt the concept of “Me Inc.” and learn to market themselves in the work force.

Another option, he says, is to work with a temp agency like Manpower Inc. Currently it’s one of the nation’s largest private employers.

George, who began marketing her skills independently in 1987, has seen considerable growth in the popularity of contract labor over the last decade. She began as an independent contractor and now coordinates contract workers in her private business. Though many people are becoming contract workers out of necessity, she says she also sees a lot of people becoming “free agents” because of the freedom it offers them.

With the ability to work on her own schedule, George was able to increase her marketability by going back to school to earn a master’s degree in human resource management.

Her life as a contract worker also allows time for the things she loves — like teaching scuba diving with her husband.

Despite the many good points, George advises potential contract workers to be aware that there is a downside. Companies that hire contractors may not pay for worker benefits. In those cases, contract workers who want benefits such as health insurance must cover the costs themselves.

“For me, it’s as simple as knowing that I don’t get paid vacations,” George says.


From an employer’s perspective

Many companies are finding it easier to go through temporary employment agencies than to recruit and hire on their own, says Donna Ledgerwood, associate professor of management.

“There are so many jobs available right now that internal human resource departments are often overwhelmed,” she explains. “It’s a lot easier to go to a temp agency to fill positions with qualified applicants. They’ve got the resources and the manpower available to fill positions quickly.”

Ledgerwood also notes that when companies are streamlining, human resource departments are often the first to go because the companies can use an agency to find workers for those jobs.

“It’s a lot cheaper and more convenient,” she says.


Test-driving positions

Amy Gwinn (’93) of Dallas says her employer, Zale Corp., uses contract workers and agencies to fill positions on special projects. Gwinn handles university relations for the company.

“An increasing number of new graduates are conducting their job searches as contract workers and through temp agencies. They do so because they know there are a lot more jobs available through these types of services than through a newspaper or the Internet,” says Gwinn, who once recruited for one of the largest temp agencies, Kelly Services.

“Some adopt these job search approaches because they’re between jobs, and others come because they want to see what a job is all about before taking it on full time.”

Gwinn says companies often hire full-time employees from those working on a temporary basis as contract workers.

“You just never know what’s around the corner,” she says. “There are so many possibilities for contract and temporary workers. Some are hired on full time after completing a special project, and others discover that they really like the variety of contract and temporary employment.”



UNT homeUNT calendarCampaign North TexasNorth Texas Exesathletics