View Full Version : Temp agencies...good idea?
01-07-2001, 12:39 AM
I have a full-time job, but could use a little bit more cash, to stem the unanticipated flow of expenses. I am looking for a part-time job mainly, although would possibly consider another full-time job. Question is, are temp agencies any good? My brother was in one for a bit, but he didn't really like it, although he didn't have any real details.
I guess I am partly clueless as to how these things work. Do you "join" one, and the find a temporary job for you, as long as the company pays for your services? Obviously, I want to find a fairly regular part-time position, but I don't want to go back and do the fast-food circuit (was enough the first time around :D) either.
01-07-2001, 12:51 AM
Temporary agencies can either be a good idea or a bad idea. There are a couple of breakpoints between good and bad.
One is you location. Are you in a largish metropolitan area or a small town? If you're in an area that isn't that densely populated you might have trouble finding assignments, due to a dearth of available clients.
The other is the company you sign with. I'm a full-time (not that you'd know it at year-end/year-beginning) temp signed to about three different national agencies right now (Kelly, Manpower, Spherion). A national agency is great...lots of reputation, lots of clientele. But my absolute best temping situation was when I was living in Minneapolis and working for a regional company (Jeane Thorne). I never had a lull, although the metropolitan area was a help with that, too. Great wages, great assignments.
If you're only looking for part-time work, you shouldn't have any real problems with any reputable agency, though.
01-07-2001, 01:07 AM
I've worked for them off and on. I've gotten great permanent jobs that way, too. Several times I was offered the job I was doing permanently. I liked the variety of moving though, so usually I said no. But you DO need to be in a bigger city, and I have no idea about part-time.
01-07-2001, 04:26 AM
My wife got a job with a temp agency when we moved to our current home. She had few job skills (having worked only one job and that was at a Morrison's cafe) and had just graduated from junior college. She let them know she was looking for a permanent position and they sent her to jobs where there was a chance for permanent employment. She went through two jobs before being hired full time at an insurance company as a clerk. She picked up valuable experience doing this, and now has a good job with the state.
PS - If you wonder how temp agencies make their money...they contract to the business that hires the employee. Let's say the business pays the employee $6.00 an hour, but the business is charged $9.00 an hour with the temp agency getting the extra $3.00. At least this was the way it was with this agency.
01-07-2001, 05:14 AM
Sometimes you can have some really cool experiences as a temp and sometimes it can be pretty bad. One time I got paid decent money to sit on a mock jury and listen to lawyers practicing their handling of a lawsuit. Another time I had a job working graveyard shift in a videotape factory where the foremen were all violent street gang members that threatened to beat me up when I left, with the full support of the temp agency. But overall I had a good experience with temp agencies (fortunately, I haven't had to work for one since 1992), and sometimes they'll send you out for jobs that you totally aren't qualified for and you can get some valuable experience.
But keep in mind that temps are usually being severely exploited and that temping is no substitute for a real job. Only do it if you want to bluff your way into getting some experience or you want to be able to walk out on a moment's notice without feeling guilty about it.
By the way, the evil temp agency mentioned above was called Apple One. If they still exist, don't work for them.
01-07-2001, 05:21 AM
Aye, I don't care about the experience part, since I already have a job I love with my degree. Just thinking about temps as an option, and I do like the ability to walk out with a second thought (wouldn't hurt my future prospects).
Thanks for the info guys. :)
01-07-2001, 05:34 AM
I've held about ten temping jobs. Some have been great, some have been awful. Points I learned the hard way:
1 / Big, national agencies get the best jobs - and you have more chance of getting work through them (generally). On the other hand, they will treat you like cattle: there are dozens of temps for each job, so you really don't count as an individual.
2 / Many agencies lie. I've turned up at "data entry" jobs to find that they're telesales. Agencies will deny they misled you, but I know for a fact that some of the biggest agencies worldwide (Adecco, for one) are happy to use any description of a job that will get someone in the door.
3 / Big agencies are unforgiving. I've been sacked from one and verbally abused for walking out on a job (one that, surprisingly enough, didn't match the description I was offered one bit). They are not nice people to cross. The contract comes before the temp in every case.
4 / Don't expect challenging, stimulating work. Temps aren't hired for their brainpower (usually) but as an extra pair of hands. I have worked on some enjoyable jobs, but usually it's typing, filing, data entry, phone work and even manual labour (in an office job). Make sure you don't go in expecting to be treated as you would in a permanent job.
5 / Now for the positive side: the experience can be very good. I learned an awful lot about what I would and wouldn't want to do permanently. It can also look good on a CV - over a short period of time. Temping over several years can make you look like an indecisive jobhopper, but a range of jobs can be a great selling point in terms of experience and an ability to hit the ground running in unfamiliar environments. I believe it has helped me get permanent work.
6 / Any experiences, good or bad, are confidence builders and help in permanent job interviews. If you learn anything, you can sell that to an interviewer.
7 / The people you work with can be lovely. I had one fantastic job in Sydney - data entry 8 hours a day, occasionally standing in for the receptionist - but the people I worked with were such a good laugh I didn't care at all. They may never remember your name (you become "the temp") but nobody expects you to slave your guts out.
8 / You have to act responsibly, but it's one of the few working occasions where you can relax at home afterwards - temps don't take work home (unless you're getting overtime).
9 / Overtime can be fantastic.
10 / If you're remotely good as a temp, agencies love you. The standard is often so low that anyone vaguely competent can almost pick and choose which assignment they want.
01-07-2001, 05:40 AM
I forgot to mention a great thing about temp agencies! They don't seem to communicate with each other. So you can put on brass knuckles and beat the tar out of your contact at temp agency 'A' (who probably deserves it) and then walk into temp agency 'B' wearing a suit and a smile and they'll love you!
01-08-2001, 01:48 PM
Before I became a pawnbroker, I temped for about a year in the Twin Cities and really had a pretty good time. The benefits I see are:
1) Nobody expects a whole lot out of you, except to show up clean & sober, and relatively on time. Occasional tardiness is usually not a big deal, because you're not gonna be there forever. This varies with placements, however.
2) The work is usually pretty easy, and your site supervisor is really impressed if you actually complete it. When I was working for OfficeTeam, I played a receptionist at Norwest. I say "played", because there was no one to receive except for the occasional FedEx package. I got $10/hr to sit around, read books, and play on the internet. This is not unusual--always bring a book to an assignment.
3) It's a great way to find out where you would or wouldn't like to work, and a great way to impress a potential employer with your skill, personality, etc. I was offered full time work with benefits more than once, but turned them down (I was a chronic job-hopper).
4) Free on-the-job training to make yourself more employable. This could be learning how to do complex tasks on a copier or learning Excel, Pagemaker, etc.
5) The sucky part is that there are generally no benefits. A lot of jobs come with no benefits today, however.
01-08-2001, 02:22 PM
I've temped in a couple different cities (Los Angeles and Norfolk, VA). It's OK if you're starting out in a city and want to get a feel for what's out there, but it sucks as a steady diet.
Recently, however, I attempted to register with two temp agencies and was told by both that they couldn't place me. The first only gave "resume discrepancies" as a reason, without telling me what those were (and that information came from a client of theirs that I'd interviewed with in 1999.). The other company had me listed in their computer as "terminated" (read: fired), even though I had not completed the application process. I may have to sue them to get that information changed.
I've had some good assignments and some bad ones. Some go out of their way to make you happy, others go out of their way to please their paying client. Register with several, and see which ones give you the most work that you enjoy.
01-08-2001, 04:07 PM
I only have a few things to add to the mix. In addition to the agencies offering office work, there are many agencies who offer industrial or light industrial work. Years ago, I worked in a few different agencies here in Northern New England doing both kinds of work, and I'm drawing on my own personal experiences. If you're not opposed to the idea of getting your hands dirty, you can make a nice chunk of change working in industrial/warehouse settings. Some companies only employee temporary workers because they're non-union, and they don't have to pay benefits. On the upside, there's often lots of overtime (sometimes mandatory to meet production quotas) and you don't sit at a desk all day. (And don't forget that nighttime differential!) They people you meet in industrial work are often ... colorful ... unless you're working in a rocket factory, don't expect to meet any rocket scientists. ;)
I didn't have many negative experiences, YMMV, but it's easy enough to switch assignments if you're a reliable worker. Show up to new assignments on time, work for the length of the contract, pay attention to whoevers training you, and don't skip out on every other Friday 'coz it's beach day. :) Do that, and you'll have your pick of assignments.
I found working for temp agencies to be very useful. Not only was the pay excellent, there was no long term commitments unless I wanted it. It helped pay a lot of my college expenses and exposed me to the operations of a wide variety of industries and business-styles that have helped me in unexpected ways in my current profession.
Oh btw, on the OP... it's easy to get started, call up your local temp agency and ask for an appointment. Dress nicely, and bring a resume, include references if possible. There will probably be a competency test, depending on the nature of the work you want to perform. If office work - they'll test you on your filing skills (alphabetizing lists of names), typing (accuracy is more important than speed), and general computer skills - can you use standard office packages. If an industrial-type work is more your thing, expect a simple math test with word problems, and sometimes an English test. The tests aren't difficult, but they're necessary. There will also be a short interview to go over the results and identify what types of positions you'd like to fill. The more narrow your requirements, the less you'll work. It's that simple. Good luck!
I once worked for a major distributor and manufacturer of children's goods. It started as a minimum wage floor-sweeping-type job for one week. While on break a manager found me in the cafe reading The Count of Monte Cristo for pure amusement, and lloking over my Physics notes. The next day I was in charge of a 35 person department manufacturing and distributing product for their 4 largest account-holders. I saved them $20 million that summer. That was a cool job :)[/irrelevant anecdote]
01-08-2001, 04:52 PM
Originally posted by Bob Scene
...great thing about temp agencies! They don't seem to communicate with each other. So you can put on brass knuckles and beat the tar out of your contact at temp agency 'A' (who probably deserves it) and then walk into temp agency 'B' wearing a suit and a smile and they'll love you!
I hate to break it to you but this is not always the case. It really depends on the size of the city that you are in. It definitely isn't the case in Calgary. My wife works for the dreaded Adecco (on the permanent side) and believe me there is a lot of "cross-pollinizattion" amongst the various firms in the city. In addition, there is an association for people in the industry that has dinners every month and it's nothing but gossip, gossip, gossip.
So be careful and don't burn all of your bridges.
01-09-2001, 04:02 PM
Temp agencies are best for this situation:
you leave a job and don't have a new one lined up. Start temping immediately. It will give you cash, and may give you connections to get a new job. My friend quit his job and waited about 6 weeks before he started temping. His only regret was that he didn't start immediately.
As for your situation... not so good, I think. Despite what temp agencies say about how great they are b/c you can take or skip the assignments as you like and work whenever YOU have time, the truth is that they favor people who work anytime THE TEMP AGENCY wants, esp. the ones who never turn down an assignment. If you make a habit of turning jobs down, they won't offer them to you.
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