Career detour spells success for Rehoboth staffing entrepreneur

By Christi Milligan
Senior Staff Writer

Melissa Joseph
Melissa Joseph

When Melissa McDermott Joseph was sidelined with a serious lung injury 30 years ago, she realized her career as a television weather forecaster was over.

That was 1986.  In January, Joseph will celebrate 25 years of business as the owner of Delmarva Temporary Staffing, Inc., one of the largest employers in the state that is a certified “Woman Owned Business.”

“I am someone who had lost their career,” said Joseph matter-of-factly. It’s that bootstraps-to-business-owner success that she leverages in the face-to-face interviews she conducts with her clients – many of them downsized and wondering what to do next.

Joseph and her team have placed more than 10,000 people in part-time and full-time employment, 7,000 of them as temps and the rest in permanent positions.  She staffs temporary and full-time clerical and administrative employees for larger corporations, government contracts and smaller businesses throughout Delaware.

Joseph’s story is powerful.  A Milford native and University of Delaware graduate, she was a young television weather forecaster at WBOC in Salisbury when the Weather Channel came calling.  But plans to interview were put on hold when she developed a lung injury that rendered her unable to work, walk or talk for nearly a year.

She was forced to start over.

“I thought maybe I’d go into public relations,” said Joseph, who took a job as an executive recruiter for a Dover company instead.  She studied employment law, earned her Certified Personnel Certification, then took out a $10,000 loan to set up her own shop in Rehoboth.

Her first placements were four temporary employees at a pharmaceutical company.  Today she has five employees and an in-house staff that includes skilled counselors, payroll services and background checks.

In the last 25 years, Joseph said sales have grown into the millions.  And then there are those 10,000 placements.

“I never looked to be successful – I just refused to fail,” said Joseph.  She credits her expertise in employment law as part of her success.

Her compelling backstory resonates with the people she interviews, many of them downsized from longtime positions and wondering how to successfully change directions.

“I interview with people all of the time,” said Joseph. “I’ve spent a lot of my time interviewing and counseling.  I tell them how to be more positive and how to make their resume more positive.”

For Joseph, the recession and recovery has radically changed the landscape for her work, forcing the team to review clients in a more holistic way. “Back in the day when we interviewed people they would be an accountant, medical secretary – they had steady career paths,” she explained.  “Today, they don’t have that.  They’ve had diverse work histories and it forces us to really look carefully at every single person.”

Delmarva Temporary Staffing places individuals in secretarial fields, accounting, work processing, social services, marketing and sales, and labor and warehouse industries.

The economy has dictated much of her business, a booming success that saw openings dwindle with the 2008 recession.  It’s turned again, and Joseph said that her agency really functions in a human resources capacity for many companies who trust her instincts and her track record.

“They trust us to screen their applicants and send them the top three,” said Joseph. “They use us instead of running to ads.  We’re very particular. We recruit when we have openings.”

“We have thousands of candidates we have interviewed and screened ready to begin working,” said Joseph.  “When a client calls we can immediately send our top three candidates to interview.  Usually, one of the three is hired.”.

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