Just a Temp? Never!
Most of you will use a recruitment agency to get temporary work. But whether you choose to go through an agency to find temporary positions or you network, there are things you can do to enhance your work prospects and make sure the pounds and pennies keep rolling in. A few temps give their thoughts as to how you can make sure you're high on the "we want you" list!
Amy Newitt has been temping for several years in Manchester. "People think temping gives you lots of freedom, but you do have to be professional and flexible about what you're doing," she says. "I like to present myself as a true office professional, and I try to add value from the minute I walk through the door. I often get told I've been more efficient and effective than the permanent person I was there to cover for. That said, it's important not to go in with a "know-it-all attitude; you need to get people on your side and get on with them, because you'll certainly need to ask questions and get help occasionally. You need to be a team-player. I also think it means knowing your true worth, financially. I keep an eye on the market rate for temps all the time, to make sure I'm getting what I think I deserve, although I've also compromised on that occasionally to get experience and exposure in a new sector."
Be creative about the ways you get work
Do you have to go through an agency to temp? "If you've got a good network, it's amazing how much work you can pick up, just by letting people know you're available," says Sam Fielding, who works in Canterbury. "I've picked up 4 assignments now through being asked by people I know to go in and help out; and they've all asked me back, because I've done a good job."
It's useful to keep in touch with people you've worked for, either by email or dropping in, or giving them the occasional call to see how they are. If you can mention something you've seen about the company in the news (but make it good news) then so much the better; it shows interest. It keeps you at the top of their list, especially if you've done a good job. If they acquired you through an agency, they can request you through the agency again.
If there are going to be times when you know a company will need staff because people are away, make contact with them early on to see if they are likely to have anything for you. If you're tried and tested, and know how the company works, you'll be far more able to hit the ground running and save the company valuable time.
"It's important to be truly flexible, if only you can stick around in a company you like," Anita Simpson believes. She temps in London. "I once spent a few days re-organising this guy's office. When I arrived, everything was on the floor in his office in one big heap, including all his business cards. It looked like the place had been ransacked. I turned it around in a few days and got to know people. By making sure I did that, I ended up with 3 more months' work. If I'd have turned the job down, I would have been without anything to do and probably out of the company. You can rely on an agency to get you work all the time but there's a lot you can do yourself to promote the fact that you're around and have got skills the company can use."
Be a career temp
If you want to be a career temp, be very aware of how you're developing and what sort of assignments will help your future move in the way you want it to. If you've particularly enjoyed an assignment, as part of your career and future development, make a note of the company and the role you took there. What was it about the company which you relished, or the role you had? Was it the way the company treated people, the products and services they were dealing with, the creativity it allowed staff, or the way they treated temps? If you can keep a track of things which you excelled at, it will help you build up an excellent portfolio of the sort of position and employing organisation you're best suited to.
"There are a whole range of skills you develop when you're temping, not least the ability to handle anything, to learn a lot about what motivates and drives people, and how to handle them," says Sam Fielding. "You get used to handling a lot of change, and seeing what works and what doesn't in organisations. It's a fantastic learning experience if you want it to be! But you have to really reflect on what you've learnt, or you can just drift in and out of jobs without really paying any attention to them."
Be active in handling your finances
Jamie Stone works as a temp in Cambridge. He says: "If you're going to temp, you need to take control of your finances and really think about where your money is going and what's likely to be coming in over the weeks ahead. I have a rainy day fund which gives me a lot more confidence for those times when work is light. It also means I can be a bit picky about the assignments I get offered and the hours I work. I make sure I get my time sheet in on time, and I pay as many bills as I can by direct debit, because most companies give discounts to people who pay that way."
Look after yourself!
The last word goes to Amy Newitt. "When you temp, it's important to look after yourself," she says. "Sometimes, the danger is that you don't want to take any time off, because when an assignment comes in, your natural tendency is to take it; but temping requires a lot of effort because you're always out to impress and show your worth. You're constantly meeting new people who don't know you, and first impressions make a difference. It's actually exhausting to be nice to people all day. You need to turn up for work looking as though you're full of energy, even if you don't feel it sometimes. No-one wants to employ a temp who looks as though they've been out half the night."
1. Look at your network. How many people in it know that you temp and what your skills are? Who in your network could you call on to see whether they know of anyone who could use your skills?
2. Be sure of what you want out of a career as a temporary office professional. How can you make sure that happens?