Temporary employment. It may sound like the desperately optimistic way of saying "mostly unemployed," but that isn't true at all. Temporary employment can provide an efficient route to a full-time job. In these uncertain economic times, temp jobs are often more than an opportunity to hone your word-processing skills: For the companies who hire temps, and the people who hold those jobs, temporary assignments can become a way of life. Thanks to the agency I found a month after graduating from college in December 2001, I secured a six-month temporary position in a Philadelphia-area industrial laboratory long before my parents could nag me about my lazy, freeloading lifestyle.

Temporary agencies for jobs in the sciences have proliferated in the Philadelphia area where Big Pharma thrives, as do knowledgeable and experienced people willing to bear such hardships as flex time, reimbursement for college classes, and onsite daycare centers.

From day one,...

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