This paper emphasizes differences among short-term contracts in terms of career prospects. Using French data over the 2002–2010 period, we rely on a dynamic model with fixed effects to disentangle state dependence from unobserved heterogeneity. Although fixed-term contracts may provide a ‘stepping-stone’ to permanent positions, temporary agency work is hardly better than unemployment in this regard. The Great Recession of 2008 has changed the dynamics on the labor market and amplified the difference between fixed-term contracts and temporary agency work. For both types of temporary workers, providing overtime work does not significantly increase the transition to permanent employment. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.