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Sorry if the title is unclear; I wasn't sure how to explain this situation at tweet length! I will elaborate.

I am currently working as a temp for a medium-sized higher education institution (I am technically employed through a third-party staffing agency), and have been with my current department for about half a year. A number of job opportunities for which I am qualified are opening up; some in my current department, and one in another department with which I have a good history (I worked there when I was a student for many years before starting in my current position, and left on good terms).

All of these opportunities could potentially be a good choice for me, and the compensation is roughly equal for all of them. The main difference is that they are not all posted yet; at this time only the one in the other, former department is open, and the other positions in my current department, which I know will soon be posted, won't be accepting applications until that one has already closed.

I am hesitant to apply to the position in the other department because:

  1. I don't know how applying for the position in the other department would affect my chances with the upcoming positions in my current one, in terms of rules, regulations, or even law.
  2. More subjectively, I don't want to burn any bridges. Supervisors in both my current department, and my former one, have expressed interest in my applying for their respective positions, and I want to handle this professionally.

My understanding is that if I go with this position that is now available (in my former department) and I were accepted, I either wouldn't be permitted to apply for the others in my current department, or that to do so would be very unprofessional. Is this correct? Am I missing anything? Would anything change if I applied for the position in my former department and I was not chosen?

(I know this may seem close to a "discussion" question, but I am not asking which job to apply for. I just want to have a better understanding of what repercussions the different choices available to me might have; I hope that is an appropriate question to be asking here.)

  • Talk with the institution's HR about whether there is a time limit for being in a position before you could apply for another one. – mkennedy Aug 27 '15 at 16:51
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My understanding is that if I go with this position that is now available (in my former department) and I were accepted, I either wouldn't be permitted to apply for the others in my current department, or that to do so would be very unprofessional. Is this correct? Am I missing anything? Would anything change if I applied for the position in my former department and I was not chosen?

Don't think about this simply in terms of whether your former department accepts you. Instead, consider the possibility that they could make you an offer of employment, at which point the power to accept or reject that offer is yours. Or, more procedurally:

  1. You submit an application.
  2. The employer chooses to offer you a job (or not).
  3. You choose to accept the job (or not).

It's not until step 3, accepting an offer, that you'd be making a serious commitment. If you've been offered a job, the professional thing to do is to respond to the offer reasonably promptly. If it's not stated in the offer how much time you have to respond, then you would ask directly. Any pending applications you have at the time you accept an offer can be withdrawn and scheduled interviews can be cancelled; this would not be considered unprofessional.

Since you are under contract with a staffing agency, rather than being an employee of the institution itself, you need to be careful to familiarize yourself with any restrictions in your contract that might limit how and when you can apply for openings with the agency's clients. Such restrictions are common and may entitle the agency to a finder's fee if one of your assignments leads to permanent employment with the assigned client (either during the assignment, or within a certain period of time after an assignment).

These clauses exist because, in addition to putting a warm body in a seat for a week or ten, the staffing agency provides some value to both you and the client company by introducing you to each other in a context that requires no long-term commitment from either party. The finder's fee rewards the agency for that "matchmaking" aspect of the contract. Your first instinct might be that this is unfair to you but if there's no finder's fee then the staffing agency has a strong incentive to keep you temping as long as possible, even if that's not in your best interests.

In any case, the best way for you to learn about this is probably to talk to your representative at the staffing agency. Explain that you like your assignment and you want to stay there permanently. It's possible all the details of the finder's fee (or similar) will be handled between the agency and the employer, in which case they'll say good luck, let us know how it works out. Otherwise, they'll guide you through the process. If they aren't helpful you may have to read the contract you signed with the agency to figure out your responsibilities.

As for the positions themselves, understand that it's expected in the white-collar world for part-time and/or temporary employees to be looking for full-time, permanent work. There are some exceptions—notably students and older folks who may be partially retired—but, generally speaking, college-educated adults are expected to want and pursue something more than temping. So nobody will be surprised by your interest and few would expect you to limit your options by applying to only one position at a time.

Just consider whether you're applying for jobs that you would be happy to take and giving each application the consideration it deserves. You want to avoid looking like the type of applicant who just wants a paycheck and is sending the same resume to every opening in sight, hoping something will stick. That said, most jobs have more applicants than openings and most applications don't result in job offers; so if you can find multiple jobs that interest you, apply to them all, regardless of whether they're at the same or different companies.

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Apply to the only one open at this time. Apply to the other ones as they open up. As the situation changes you can withdraw your application(s) at any time. Many systems have an easy way to do this, it just takes the click of a button.

If any job interests you and you are reasonably qualified for it, then apply for the position. I have applied for multiple positions within the same company on several occasions. You never know which one will get through the interview process faster. You never know how many will be called in for interviews.

Generally if they give you a formal offer, they ask that when you accept it you withdraw from all the other positions you have applied for within the company.

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To repeat what was stated above: please be aware of what contract conditions with the temp agency may make obtaining a ft job there difficult. I know that when I worked for a temp agency, my contract with the temp agency had to be bought out by my permanent company. I lucked out -- my company was willing to buy me out. I knew someone who worked at a much larger company who was not as lucky.

Before you worry about that, though: I would make sure that you like working there, you feel like you are doing a good job, and that you jive very well with your full time co-workers. Has someone at work encouraged you to apply for a full-time job? Then aim for a job in an area of the institution you work at. Being a temp at the institution may not particularly help you land a job in an unrelated or geographically distant dept of the institution. Keep you head up and expect to move on with temp positions -- they are called temporary jobs for a reason. Accordingly, apply for jobs judiciously and make sure they know you as a friendly face and a positive member of the workforce in that department before you hit them with applications.

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