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  #1  
Old 08-23-2010, 10:14 AM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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Question about refusing temp work

I'm planning on signing up with a temporary employment agency this week, and I need some advice. About five years ago, I did some temp work, and when I applied at the agency, I deliberately left off "receptionist" or anything to do with the telephone on the application because I hate hate hate working with phones. I also stressed in the interview that I really, really did not want to be sent to receptionist positions and really, really did not want to have to answer phones.

Well, the first two jobs they sent me to were receptionist jobs. I took them because I needed the money, but when they asked me to take the third receptionist job, I passed on it....and they never called me again. (Fortunately, I had a permanent job already lined up in the near future.)

So here I am again, ready to join the ranks of temp workers, and I'm wondering how can I, a) politely, and b) successfully, convince the person handling my application NOT TO SEND M-- *ahem* not to send me receptionist and telephone-answering work? How do I do it in such a way that doesn't come across as rude/stubborn/attitude-full and make them less inclined to want to work with me?



(You know, my brother temped in college and was never asked to be a receptionist, so I can't help but think that just because I'm a woman, they assume I'll be good at that kind of thing. I'm not, I hate it. I don't even like answering my own phone!)

Last edited by gallows fodder; 08-23-2010 at 10:15 AM..
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  #2  
Old 08-23-2010, 10:49 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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I had exactly the same situation (except that I said that I wouldn't do cold-calling); the first job they gave me morphed from "talking to existing business clients" to cold-calling within a day. I called the agency, they gave me a crap speech about "well, it's all working with phones, isn't it?" and they agreed to replace me. Never offered me another job.

My solution was to find a better agency. Is that an option where you are? Some temp agencies are really quite bad about this sort of thing, whereas the better ones actually try to match your skills and preferences with the jobs available.

(Oh, and I was once refused work by an agency because they only did receptionist and secretarial placings and I wasn't female. Luckily for them I was disinclined to bring a suit against them - too much hassle.)
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:51 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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When I was in college, I worked in a temp agency. They really, really like people who aren't picky about assignments and lots of the jobs are for receptionists. The best advice I can give you is do a really good job and get to the point where they like and value you enough to let you be picky. At the beginiing though, they will likely stop calling if you are too picky.
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:00 AM
Kimmy_Gibbler Kimmy_Gibbler is offline
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Take lemons and make lemonade.

Consider it picking up a skill you don't have now and that is, in fact, useful to have. Temp jobs are always low-level gigs (receptionist, file clerk)—a firm is not going to take someone off the street and put them in a make-or-break position. But, on the one hand, receptioning is pretty low pressure, and on the other hand, if you show you can handle more responsibility, your duties might be revisited and aligned with something more to your liking.

However, temp companies get paid when you work an assignment, not when you turn up your nose. Whom do you think they are going to prefer to deal with: someone who makes their earning profits easier by taking receptionist gigs if that's what out there or someone who insists only on jobs they like?

Last edited by Kimmy_Gibbler; 08-23-2010 at 11:03 AM..
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  #5  
Old 08-23-2010, 11:01 AM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
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Temp agencies are very picky now. They didn't used to be.

I have signed up with so many of them. Not many call me at all anymore. Everyday I go through my list of 15 and I call them.

In the old days Accountemps (Robert Half) used to ring my phone off the hook. Now they don't call. YOU have to call them every day to get on the list.

Another temp agency which gives me some stuff tells you, if they call and you refuse to come in for any reason, you go to the bottom of the list. Two times you refuse work and you're off the list for good. I got sent down to the bottom of the list, 'cause they called me and I said, "I have a job from another agency for that day."

So when you go in, specifically ask for their policies. As I said, the temp agencies are so picky now. It's hard to believe as little as two years ago they were calling me constantly for jobs. Ah the times they are a-changing huh?
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:20 AM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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Ah, Jesus. This is depressing. Can't a sister just do some data entry in peace?
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  #7  
Old 08-23-2010, 11:31 AM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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Missed the edit window...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
Take lemons and make lemonade.

Consider it picking up a skill you don't have now and that is, in fact, useful to have. Temp jobs are always low-level gigs (receptionist, file clerk)—a firm is not going to take someone off the street and put them in a make-or-break position. But, on the one hand, receptioning is pretty low pressure, and on the other hand, if you show you can handle more responsibility, your duties might be revisited and aligned with something more to your liking.
This is true. However, I worked for three years in customer service, so my hatred of phones is more due to, like, PTSD than it is due to unfamiliarity with the task.

You and madmonk28 make a good point about doing well for a while and then asking for other kinds of work.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gyrate
My solution was to find a better agency. Is that an option where you are? Some temp agencies are really quite bad about this sort of thing, whereas the better ones actually try to match your skills and preferences with the jobs available.
Luckily, I live in an area with several temp agencies -- do you guys recommend that I sign up with all of them, or do you think that will burn me, as in Markxxx's post?

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Originally Posted by Markxxx
So when you go in, specifically ask for their policies.
I'll do that, thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:37 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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If I were temping I would think that answering phones would be one of the easiest and lowest pressure assignments.

And, really, look at it logically, "receptionist" is going to be one of the most common temp needs. A company that has a receptionist needs one every day, even when the permanent receptionist is on sick leave. Most other jobs can slide by some sick leave without needing a temporary replacement.
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  #9  
Old 08-23-2010, 11:51 AM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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It's embarrassing to admit, but for me, answering the phones is high pressure because it makes me so anxious. Especially if it's for a company that uses a large switchboard-like phone, and the phone is constantly ringing. I just sit there, nervous, for 8 hours straight, and I'd rather not have to deal with that if there is any possible way of avoiding it. I was being facetious with the PTSD comment but seriously, I feel like there was some classical conditioning going on during my time in customer service, where phone ringing = angry customer = aversive stimulus, and the conditioning hasn't been extinguished yet.

(Can you tell I have a BA in psychology I've never used? )
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Old 08-23-2010, 01:20 PM
tdn tdn is offline
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Hey, maybe you can do some temp psychology work!

Quote:
Originally Posted by gallows fodder View Post
Luckily, I live in an area with several temp agencies -- do you guys recommend that I sign up with all of them, or do you think that will burn me, as in Markxxx's post?
It's been a long time, but I was once signed up at three agencies. They didn't mind my "cheating" on them with other agencies. It didn't turn out to be a problem because soon I was working full time for the one that consistently got me work.

It was kind of funny, they had me on one assignment for 5 months. I was eventually the most senior person in the department.
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Old 08-23-2010, 03:39 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is online now
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You're getting some bad advice here; receptionist is not a low-pressure assignment, and it sure as hell isn't low-pressure if you hate answering phones. Yes, sign up for as many agencies as it takes; I would usually sign up for one per week, allowing the one I just signed up for to find me an assignment, since it seems that as a new sign-up, they tend to call you right away. Receptionist is the most common assignment that comes in - because no one wants to do it because it's shitty work. When you sign up with a temp agency, they sit down and have a chat with you, and that's the time to tell them that you'll do any assignment that comes in except phone work. You will probably have to wait longer for an assignment that way, but nobody wins if you get placed and you quit four hours later, and temp agencies are starting to get that.

Don't start by taking receptionist gigs - they'll never stop offering them to you if you do that. And yes, you're right - there is the sexist assumption that every woman working in an office would love nothing better than to answer phones.
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Old 08-23-2010, 03:45 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
You will probably have to wait longer for an assignment that way, but nobody wins if you get placed and you quit four hours later, and temp agencies are starting to get that.
Most temp agencies I've seen don't like to carry temps who are picky about what work they do, especially when they cancel out what is likely to be some of their most commonly available assignments.
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Old 08-23-2010, 05:01 PM
Baracus Baracus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
If I were temping I would think that answering phones would be one of the easiest and lowest pressure assignments.
Depends on where it is. One summer in college I answered phones in the Mortgage Origination department of a regional bank. People awaiting a decision on the largest financial transaction of their lives can get unpleasant very quickly, especially when you can't answer their question and the people that can are in a meeting, on their phone already, or simply not answering their phone. The next summer I worked for a temp agency and had jobs packing merchandise for distribution, assembling items, and file clerking. WAYYYYY less stressful.
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Old 08-23-2010, 05:23 PM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cat Whisperer View Post
You're getting some bad advice here; receptionist is not a low-pressure assignment, and it sure as hell isn't low-pressure if you hate answering phones. Yes, sign up for as many agencies as it takes; I would usually sign up for one per week, allowing the one I just signed up for to find me an assignment, since it seems that as a new sign-up, they tend to call you right away. Receptionist is the most common assignment that comes in - because no one wants to do it because it's shitty work. When you sign up with a temp agency, they sit down and have a chat with you, and that's the time to tell them that you'll do any assignment that comes in except phone work. You will probably have to wait longer for an assignment that way, but nobody wins if you get placed and you quit four hours later, and temp agencies are starting to get that.

Don't start by taking receptionist gigs - they'll never stop offering them to you if you do that. And yes, you're right - there is the sexist assumption that every woman working in an office would love nothing better than to answer phones.
Thanks, you understand me. The part of your post that I've bolded...that's essentially what I did the last time, whereafter they still sent me to receptionist positions. Although now that I think about it, I think I let the woman who handled my application talk me into taking that kind of work. I won't let that happen again, but I'd still like to do it in a way that won't bite me in the butt. Would a simple, "I prefer to work data entry-type jobs and would rather not fill in for receptionists" work, or does that sound too wishy-washy? I don't want to come across as too stubborn or like I'm digging in my heels during the application interview, but I don't want them to talk me into anything again, either.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
If I were temping I would think that answering phones would be one of the easiest and lowest pressure assignments.
Depends on where it is. One summer in college I answered phones in the Mortgage Origination department of a regional bank. People awaiting a decision on the largest financial transaction of their lives can get unpleasant very quickly, especially when you can't answer their question and the people that can are in a meeting, on their phone already, or simply not answering their phone. The next summer I worked for a temp agency and had jobs packing merchandise for distribution, assembling items, and file clerking. WAYYYYY less stressful.
Exactly this! That was precisely my experience, and I would love to have a job like the one in your last sentence. I'll stress that at the interview.

What I also can do is re-work the customer service job section on my resume to highlight all the other duties I had and leave off "answer the phones" (I was technically a sales assistant and worked primarily with statistics). The rest of my resume is full of jobs that had nothing to do with answering phones or working with customers. That way, my resume won't give the temp agency any bright ideas.

Last edited by gallows fodder; 08-23-2010 at 05:24 PM..
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  #15  
Old 08-23-2010, 06:25 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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I temped for a while 15 years ago, when there weren't nearly as many out of work people as there are today. Even then, temp firms really didn't like people that were fussy about their first assignments. I had some crappy ones. But I found that as I showed that I was willing to work, actually showed up, and did a good job, I was offered better (longer term, better conditions) jobs.

So I'd suggest taking those first few distasteful jobs, do a good job, and once you have proven yourself, then go in and talk about getting away from phone work.

Once you prove yourself, they are much more reluctent to let you go. You are now a proven profit maker for the temp firm, rather than just another resume.
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Old 08-23-2010, 07:11 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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Here are some useful bits from the years when my wife worked as an Accountemp®.

She was sent to a job where the business was on the edge of collapse, and hadn't paid payroll taxes to Uncle Sam. She walked away, and she told the agency why. It could have ruined her career as an accountant and might even have made her criminally liable.

She was sent to another place that had unethical (maybe even illegal) business practices. No dice. You don't have to sell your soul for a job.

She spent some time at another business that continued to hire her on a now-and-then weekend basis for several years after she left as a temp.
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Old 08-23-2010, 11:17 PM
dalej42 dalej42 is offline
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Reception work sucks. You don't know who gets put through and who always has to leave a message. You don't know everyone's nickname and there are endless pushy salespeople calling.

I'd sign up with every single agency.

There may be some companies which let you grow. There are also companies who won't. Their view is that if you start doing other things, then they'll need someone to answer the phone!

You'll probably end up burning some bridges with temp companies. They can be very picky these days and will usually send new people to their crap jobs. You may luck out and find one agency that has a good assignment that they're having a hard time filling.
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Old 08-24-2010, 05:52 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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In general, the kind of work you get through temping sucks. It's akin to being a substitute teacher.
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Old 08-24-2010, 06:20 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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Call the various agencies and ask them what type of assignments they usually have. If they're predominantly reception/phone jobs, don't sign up with them (unless you've no other choice). Different agencies draw different types of clients with different needs. You may not be able to pick and choose your jobs but you can increase the odds of getting the sort of work you want and decreasing the sort of work you don't want by vetting who you sign up with.

Also - emphasize your non-phone skills in your CV/application. You say you've done statistics - that's a good skill that some companies want, especially if you've done analysis. I was good with spreadsheets (MS Excel especially) - that turned out to be a real job-getter for me. If you have a decent typing speed you can pick up data entry work (which isn't a bad job when you get down to it).

Play to your strengths. There are no guarantees, but it can't hurt.
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Old 08-24-2010, 07:06 AM
DianaG DianaG is offline
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Sign up with as many agencies as you like. It's not like they're committing all their resources to you.

All agencies are not alike. Assuming you're looking for permanent work, do your research and find out which agencies are placing the most people in permanent positions.

Be honest with your agent. I also hate the phone with a fiery passion, and I made it very clear to the agents I work with that I am NOT a receptionist. That's not being 'picky'. I'm also not an engineer, so they shouldn't call me for that.

That said, keep an open mind, because being the receptionist at a huge firm with a switchboard is very different than being the receptionist at a small company, where the phone doesn't ring incessantly, and it may turn out to be more of a general 'office assistant' job.

Last edited by DianaG; 08-24-2010 at 07:07 AM..
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  #21  
Old 08-24-2010, 09:27 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gallows fodder View Post
I'm planning on signing up with a temporary employment agency this week, and I need some advice. About five years ago, I did some temp work, and when I applied at the agency, I deliberately left off "receptionist" or anything to do with the telephone on the application because I hate hate hate working with phones. I also stressed in the interview that I really, really did not want to be sent to receptionist positions and really, really did not want to have to answer phones.

Well, the first two jobs they sent me to were receptionist jobs. I took them because I needed the money, but when they asked me to take the third receptionist job, I passed on it....and they never called me again. (Fortunately, I had a permanent job already lined up in the near future.) Yes, I did this to score points with the agency. You know what? It worked.

So here I am again, ready to join the ranks of temp workers, and I'm wondering how can I, a) politely, and b) successfully, convince the person handling my application NOT TO SEND M-- *ahem* not to send me receptionist and telephone-answering work? How do I do it in such a way that doesn't come across as rude/stubborn/attitude-full and make them less inclined to want to work with me?
If you rule out receptionist jobs then yes, ANY temp agency will be less inclined to work with you these days. I'm sorry, but that's reality. I understand - I HATE phones with a passion, always have. I also first worked for a temp agency as far back as 1983 and off and on since then (between permanent jobs), I have YEARS of experience working for temp agencies, and I don't care WHAT you do, you have to be able and willing to answer phones.

Even after I got to the point with an agency where I was sent on assignments where I NEVER had to touch a phone I'd still be willing to take a short term receptionist job in a pinch to help the agency fill an order. (Usually around the Christmas holiday - not being a Christian I have always been willing willing to work Christian holidays, which has occasionally made me an asset to an employer).

Quote:
(You know, my brother temped in college and was never asked to be a receptionist, so I can't help but think that just because I'm a woman, they assume I'll be good at that kind of thing. I'm not, I hate it. I don't even like answering my own phone!)
Yes, it's because you're a women. Back when I started temping it was common for customers to specify they wanted a "pretty" woman for reception work. In fact, it wasn't uncommon back then for them to specify a thin, young, WHITE woman for temp work, sometimes even "ordering" a particular hair color or bust size. The workers sent on assignment usually didn't see that part of the order taking, by the way, but it did occur. It's not even whether you're good or not in some cases, sometimes it's men wanting something pretty to leer at, or for their customers to leer at.

This has become less common (thankfully!) although as recently as three years ago I was told at one interview that, being over 30, I was too old to be a receptionist (I'm actually over 40, but didn't want to mention that) and in another case I was told by a potential employer that if I'd get a breast enhancement he'd consider hiring me. Clearly, these people are not, actually, looking for phone skills. At least, it's not the top of the list. And equally clearly these men (it's always men) do NOT want a male receptionist.

Temp agencies get a LOT of orders for receptionists because it's a shit job, especially as a temporary. It's called paying your dues.

If you really can't stand doing receptionist work then either seek out an agency that specializes in something else, or seek other work. If you MUST take receptionist work grit your teeth but when you call for more work say "While I am capable of working as a receptionist I'd REALLY like something else - what is available that doesn't require phone work?" Will that always work? No. But it keeps reminding them you want to do something else

Quote:
Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
If I were temping I would think that answering phones would be one of the easiest and lowest pressure assignments.
Ha. Ha- ha- ha. AH-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

You have OBVIOUSLY never worked as a receptionist!

No, it's a difficult, shitty, often stressful job. I'm serious. You have NO idea how abusive people can be over the phone. It's appalling. And you have to smile and be polite even when someone is saying something appalling to you or asking you if you like to fuck dobermans and how much do you charge for him to video tape you doing it. Aside from mere profanity and sexual solicitation, I've also had callers threaten violence ("I'm going to come down there and shoot everyone, starting with you, bitch!") or threaten to sue me ("What? I'm just the temp!"). You get yelled at because, it being your first day on the job, you just don't know that Charlie's wife should NOT be put through because at 2 pm Charlie is in his office fucking the Mexican lady who scrubs the toilets, and Zeke Smith should NEVER be put through but take a message and discard it immediately and tell the OSHA inspectors the boss is on vacation and not expected back from lunch at 1 and all the other details you're somehow supposed to magically know (and YES - I have had to deal with ALL of the above!) - for damn sure NO ONE will tell you these things but you're supposed to be a mind reader. And if you don't know them you're lucky if all you're called is just "stupid". And don't bother attempting to defend yourself - no one likes an uppity cunt receptionist, just admit you're hopelessly incompetent, you're a terrible human being, apologize profusely, promise never to do it again, and brace yourself because this all repeats in a half an hour.

On top of that, I've worked places where you've got 10 lines, you are NEVER to let a line ring more than once, and NEVER to put anyone on hold to answer another line. I've been expected to sit at a desk for 8 hours with NO BATHROOM BREAK, much less lunch, despite the labor laws that violates. You are expected to remember and pronounce everyone's name perfectly, and spell it correctly without asking how to spell it every time. You are expected to make every who calls deliriously happy yet you have no authority to do anything, even pee without express permission from your supervisor.

Then there are the reception jobs where you aren't busy. You are supposed to sit at a desk for 8 hours ready to instantly answer the phone... and it never rings. You are NOT allowed to do anything else while waiting for the phone. You are not to read, fidget, look out the window, anything other than wait, all perky-looking, for that goddamned phone to ring.

Now - not ALL receptionist jobs are that bad. But a lot of them are. Particularly, a lot of them you get as a temp are, because clearly no one is going to put up with that shit permanently. I can't count the number of times such sadists have lamented that they can't get anyone to stay in their receptionist job, and they just don't understand because OBVIOUSLY that is such a stress-free and easy job to do. Well, yes, answering the phone is easy, a toddler can do it, it's all the other shit that makes the job such a hellish experience.

On top of that - it's "women's work" and thus gets no respect. Way back in the stone age (up until around 1975) you might get at least polite respect if you were, say, a college student trying to get an education or a young mother working part time or something of the sort because a lot of jobs weren't open to women and so it wasn't considered too unusual for a smart, talented woman to work as a receptionist because it was a job that was open to women. Now, though - if you're behind the front desk answering the phone it's assumed you're TOO STUPID to be doing anything else, something more "meaningful" or important. Because, you know, if you were a competent woman you'd be a manager or something and not trading on your looks and youth for an "easy" job just coasting by.

Oh - and if the receptionist is male a lot of people assume he's gay. I'm not sure why, maybe because it's traditionally "woman's work" and in the back of their heads they assume a "real man" would never take such work.

Quote:
And, really, look at it logically, "receptionist" is going to be one of the most common temp needs. A company that has a receptionist needs one every day, even when the permanent receptionist is on sick leave. Most other jobs can slide by some sick leave without needing a temporary replacement.
Not only that - but I've temped at companies that NEVER hire a permanent receptionist, they rely on the agencies to supply them one. These are usually some of the worst places to work.

God, I HATE receptionist work. And I hate answering the goddamned phone. Really, I loved it when e-mail showed up. Don't get me wrong - I've cultivated excellent phone skills, if you're on the other end of the phone you will NEVER know how much I loathe the telephone (I once admitted to a senior VP of Blue Cross Blue Shield that I HATED using the phone. He said "Really? But you're so good at it - so professional and polite." Well, yeah, it's a useful job skill but just because I'm good at it doesn't mean I like it. I'm good at wiping my ass, too, but that doesn't mean I seek out more opportunities to do it than necessary)

Last edited by Broomstick; 08-24-2010 at 09:29 AM..
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  #22  
Old 08-24-2010, 10:11 AM
AmericanMaid AmericanMaid is offline
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Another aspect of temping and temp agencies is that a lot of them have different divisions for different temp work. I believe Robert Half has Accountemps and Office Team so avoid Office team because they place Admins. Also, do you have to worry about qualifying for unemployment if you refuse an assignment? I know Kforce has a policy that if you don't accept an assignment and/or don't call in to check on assignments, they will mess up your unemployment. I'm probably not the best advice giver considering that I walked off an assignment back in 2008 because the job description I got from the agency was a complete lie. I've had good experiences with Ajilon and Robert Half. Kforce and PSG are evil.
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  #23  
Old 08-24-2010, 10:17 AM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gallows fodder View Post
It's embarrassing to admit, but for me, answering the phones is high pressure because it makes me so anxious. )
Two things to keep in mind -
  1. Beggars can't be choosers, and
  2. No one in the business world gives two toots on a tin trumpet about your problems - we just need someone to fill in while the regular secretary is on vacation. If you can do that, great. If not, we want to talk to someone else.
It's great that you can do statistics and stuff. It would be better if you could answer the phone and do statistics and stuff.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 08-24-2010, 10:40 AM
DianaG DianaG is offline
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Two things for Shodan to keep in mind:

1. "Secretary" (or Administrative/Executive Assistant, for those of us who have learned new words since the 70s) is not the same job as "receptionist".

2. Nobody mans the front desk AND does statistics.

Last edited by DianaG; 08-24-2010 at 10:40 AM..
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Old 08-24-2010, 10:51 AM
Shodan Shodan is offline
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Originally Posted by DianaG View Post
Two things for Shodan to keep in mind:

1. "Secretary" (or Administrative/Executive Assistant, for those of us who have learned new words since the 70s) is not the same job as "receptionist".
It is at this company.
Quote:
2. Nobody mans the front desk AND does statistics.
I was talking about her ability to get work - being able to answer phones and being able to do statistics is better because you can get phone jobs as well as statistics jobs.

Regards,
Shodan
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  #26  
Old 08-24-2010, 12:15 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is online now
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Originally Posted by AskNott View Post
Here are some useful bits from the years when my wife worked as an Accountemp®.

She was sent to a job where the business was on the edge of collapse, and hadn't paid payroll taxes to Uncle Sam. She walked away, and she told the agency why. It could have ruined her career as an accountant and might even have made her criminally liable.

She was sent to another place that had unethical (maybe even illegal) business practices. No dice. You don't have to sell your soul for a job.

She spent some time at another business that continued to hire her on a now-and-then weekend basis for several years after she left as a temp.
Accountemps is the only temp agency that has threatened to sue me over leaving an assignment (I got a job offer for three times the money - so long, suckers!). When I stood up to them and told them temping was at-will employment and they could fire me for any or no reason, so I could leave an assignment the same way, they backed down. If I had been a new temp, they might have bullied me into giving up what turned out to be a really lucrative two year contract.

gallows fodder, I think what you're seeing here is different situations in different places. I've done temp work on and off for 14 years without doing reception work; I would never have a day of unemployment if I could stand answering phones, but there are still plenty of assignments that aren't reception (I usually work in accounting). No doubt, you'll get placed quicker with reception; if you can hold out, I think you should. It wouldn't hurt to take a couple of accounting classes, either - that's basically my out.
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  #27  
Old 08-24-2010, 03:52 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
On top of that, I've worked places where you've got 10 lines, you are NEVER to let a line ring more than once, and NEVER to put anyone on hold to answer another line. I've been expected to sit at a desk for 8 hours with NO BATHROOM BREAK, much less lunch, despite the labor laws that violates. You are expected to remember and pronounce everyone's name perfectly, and spell it correctly without asking how to spell it every time. You are expected to make every who calls deliriously happy yet you have no authority to do anything, even pee without express permission from your supervisor
You could be my wife talking about her days as a receptionist. She could go to the bathroom, but she had to ask permission first and have someone spell her, so woe to you if the office manager has it in for you. My pregnant wife often had to wait over an hour before the office manager could find someone to sit at the front desk for five minutes. She was ultimately fired for going to the bathroom without permission after waiting for 30 minutes.

Boy, the crap you take when you're too young to know better.
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  #28  
Old 08-24-2010, 05:20 PM
InterestedObserver InterestedObserver is offline
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Originally Posted by gallows fodder View Post
It's embarrassing to admit, but for me, answering the phones is high pressure because it makes me so anxious. Especially if it's for a company that uses a large switchboard-like phone, and the phone is constantly ringing. I just sit there, nervous, for 8 hours straight, and I'd rather not have to deal with that if there is any possible way of avoiding it. I was being facetious with the PTSD comment but seriously, I feel like there was some classical conditioning going on during my time in customer service, where phone ringing = angry customer = aversive stimulus, and the conditioning hasn't been extinguished yet.

(Can you tell I have a BA in psychology I've never used? )
This reminded me of a temp job I did a few years back, for a local company...I have a lot of experience answering multi-line phones, but I was completely stressed out over this assignment.

The name of the company was/is Schnitzer (a very "important" company and family here) and I got this mental block which caused me to become paralyzed whenever the phone rang (more or less constantly) and I would have to answer...just KNEW I was going to say "Shitzer" (That combination of letters is not one that comes easily for me..good thing I'm not German, huh?)

Was totally ridiculous, and I knew it but it didn't prevent me from almost hyperventilating and stumbling over the name several times! I used to practice saying it and STILL lock up in the moment.

ANYwoo, on the refusing temp jobs thing, I've never had much of a problem with the agency I am with (Adecco). They are pretty good about only offering me things in line with my level and preferred rate of pay (which usually doesn't include receptionist work, though I did one such gig last yr. for a private bank which also involved processing deposits, handling money and sensitive info and required a good security clearance and past experience with those sort of things, which I have, so they called me).

I have turned down several assignments for various reasons (schedule, pay, type of work, etc..) and it's never seemed to influence my future prospects.

Another vote for find a good agency and rep. willing and able to accomodate you. And also, consider taking a few assignments which are less than your ideal..you still get paid, may make valuable contacts and it sends the message that you are flexible.
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  #29  
Old 08-25-2010, 01:01 PM
PunditLisa PunditLisa is offline
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It'd be very helpful if you defined exactly what you excelled at, and where your interests lie, in the interview as opposed to ruling out things you DIDN'T want to do.

For instance, if you excel at creating kick-ass spreadsheets, then stress that in your interview. "I'm proficient in Excel. I'm especially good at creating spreadsheets, including pivot tables." Then you will come to mind immediately when a job that lists strong Excel skills as a prerequisite.

If you have an interest in a particular field, say that. "My preference is the legal field as I find that work fascinating." That kind of thing is easily recallable when the counselor gets a phone call from a law firm asking for help.

If you're excellent at data entry, then say that. "I'm a very quick typist and am excellent at managing databases. I really enjoyed my last data entry assignment."

"I'm very willing to do manual labor jobs, including shipping and working in warehouses. In fact, that is my preference vs. sitting in an office."

If you don't have any true marketable skills outside of data entry, then use the firms' training programs, if provided, to further your job skill set. Or take some classes at your local trade school in order to make yourself more marketable.

Last edited by PunditLisa; 08-25-2010 at 01:02 PM..
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  #30  
Old 08-25-2010, 01:36 PM
Elysian Elysian is offline
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I've always found that you should take the first job the temp agency offers. Then once they see that you're reliable and get good feedback for you they will be more willing to offer you the better assignments. If you refuse that first job, however, they probably won't offer the better one to you.

I've been shouted at once as a receptionist. I forwarded a call to him when he was in a meeting! Gasp, shock! It was enough for him to really get irate, red faced, spewing, questioning my intelligence and ancestry, etc. This was my first day.

I just listened to it, didn't turn a hair. I think he expected me to cry. Then after calling me a name he turned and went back to his office. I shrugged and went back to answering phones.

A few hours later he apologised. I said "Oh, right," shrugged and went home.

The temp agency called and said they didn't want me to come back -- I think he was embarrassed about losing it so badly. They at least paid me.

That was the worst I've had to put up with. People stop screaming at you when you just show them you don't care and it doesn't bother you. But they do feel like they have the right when you're only a temp and only a receptionist. It's a really awful job.
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  #31  
Old 08-25-2010, 02:45 PM
Poysyn Poysyn is offline
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Originally Posted by PoorYorick View Post
You could be my wife talking about her days as a receptionist. She could go to the bathroom, but she had to ask permission first and have someone spell her, so woe to you if the office manager has it in for you. My pregnant wife often had to wait over an hour before the office manager could find someone to sit at the front desk for five minutes. She was ultimately fired for going to the bathroom without permission after waiting for 30 minutes.

Boy, the crap you take when you're too young to know better.
I did this when I was pregnant and once left the front desk of a busy newpaper at a full gallop as I was going to throw up.

The last temp job I took was data-entry (which I hated) and they sat me on a backless stool for the eight hours at seven months pregnant. I came home that night almost not able to walk and in tears. I called in and quit, that was enough.
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  #32  
Old 08-25-2010, 04:30 PM
gallows fodder gallows fodder is offline
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Originally Posted by Elysian View Post
I've always found that you should take the first job the temp agency offers. Then once they see that you're reliable and get good feedback for you they will be more willing to offer you the better assignments. If you refuse that first job, however, they probably won't offer the better one to you.

I've been shouted at once as a receptionist. I forwarded a call to him when he was in a meeting! Gasp, shock! It was enough for him to really get irate, red faced, spewing, questioning my intelligence and ancestry, etc. This was my first day.

I just listened to it, didn't turn a hair. I think he expected me to cry. Then after calling me a name he turned and went back to his office. I shrugged and went back to answering phones.

A few hours later he apologised. I said "Oh, right," shrugged and went home.

The temp agency called and said they didn't want me to come back -- I think he was embarrassed about losing it so badly. They at least paid me.

That was the worst I've had to put up with. People stop screaming at you when you just show them you don't care and it doesn't bother you. But they do feel like they have the right when you're only a temp and only a receptionist. It's a really awful job.
Jesus, I would have cried if I had been in your shoes. This is precisely what I'm trying to avoid -- I'm done with jobs where you are the hapless target for strangers' temper tantrums. Just stick me in a back room with a computer and data to enter and I'm all set. I don't even need a window.

PunditLisa, that's a good approach you're suggesting -- I'll do that. I also like DianaG's mentality of, "Well, I'm not an engineer and you wouldn't send me to do an engineer's job, so..." I'll focus my interview on my experience with maintaining and organizing information.
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  #33  
Old 08-25-2010, 04:47 PM
Poysyn Poysyn is offline
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Originally Posted by Elysian View Post
I've always found that you should take the first job the temp agency offers. Then once they see that you're reliable and get good feedback for you they will be more willing to offer you the better assignments. If you refuse that first job, however, they probably won't offer the better one to you.

I've been shouted at once as a receptionist. I forwarded a call to him when he was in a meeting! Gasp, shock! It was enough for him to really get irate, red faced, spewing, questioning my intelligence and ancestry, etc. This was my first day.

I just listened to it, didn't turn a hair. I think he expected me to cry. Then after calling me a name he turned and went back to his office. I shrugged and went back to answering phones.

A few hours later he apologised. I said "Oh, right," shrugged and went home.

The temp agency called and said they didn't want me to come back -- I think he was embarrassed about losing it so badly. They at least paid me.

That was the worst I've had to put up with. People stop screaming at you when you just show them you don't care and it doesn't bother you. But they do feel like they have the right when you're only a temp and only a receptionist. It's a really awful job.

You reminded me of one - I was once reprimanded by a law partner that I forwarded a call to him when his door was shut...which I could not see from my desk. I said I was happy to follow that reg - as long as he told me when he was shutting his door.

Everyone gasped with shock that I didn't just cower in fear. Then they offered me a permanent job and tried to schedule around my child care needs.
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  #34  
Old 08-25-2010, 05:38 PM
Elysian Elysian is offline
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It was nothing compared to the job I had where I sat less than two feet away from the woman who was supervising me. I couldn't sneeze without her noting that I wasn't working. We actually did rub elbows at times. I couldn't leave that job fast enough -- walked out one day when she read me the riot act about answering the phone in too informal of a tone.

Personally I would rather be yelled at once a day than do data entry! *shudder*
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  #35  
Old 08-25-2010, 07:03 PM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Originally Posted by gallows fodder View Post
Ah, Jesus. This is depressing. Can't a sister just do some data entry in peace?
Well, no. Data entry jobs have mostly disappeared -- that work has been shifted onto the customers now.

Think about it.

It used to be that every time you used a credit card, they ran it through an embossing machine which put the card number onto several copies & carbons. Then those were sent off to the credit card company, and people went through all of them and data entered the info. Now the customer swipes the card through a reader, and the mag stripe on the back does the data entry automatically, instantaneously.

I used to order things from catalogs, by filling out an order form and mailing it to them. Then their data entry people keyed in all the info from my order. Now I order online (sometimes from the same companies) and I do all the data entry for my order myself, online.

I used to get comment cards from restaurants & other businesses, which I filled out and mailed to them. Then someone entered that data into their system. Now those cards have me go to a website or a phone number, where I do the data entry myself by keying it or pressing buttons on the phone.

So most data entry is now done by the customer -- those jobs have largely disappeared.
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  #36  
Old 08-25-2010, 07:37 PM
Cat Whisperer Cat Whisperer is online now
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Originally Posted by Poysyn View Post
<snip>
You reminded me of one - I was once reprimanded by a law partner that I forwarded a call to him when his door was shut...which I could not see from my desk. I said I was happy to follow that reg - as long as he told me when he was shutting his door.

Everyone gasped with shock that I didn't just cower in fear. Then they offered me a permanent job and tried to schedule around my child care needs.
I've had one assignment at a lawyerin' place - there was no yelling, but there was...nastiness directed towards me. Legal offices are just about bottom of my list of places to work - they seem to have no concept of treating staff with decency.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elysian View Post
It was nothing compared to the job I had where I sat less than two feet away from the woman who was supervising me. I couldn't sneeze without her noting that I wasn't working. We actually did rub elbows at times. I couldn't leave that job fast enough -- walked out one day when she read me the riot act about answering the phone in too informal of a tone.

Personally I would rather be yelled at once a day than do data entry! *shudder*
I've had jobs like that, too - at my last job, where my supervisor gave me a really hard time for quitting, she was right across the hallway and watched everything I did, all day, every day. It was about two hours after I started working there before I was hiding stuff I was doing from her ("Don't make a spreadsheet to do employee expenses quicker and easier! Why are you doing that? What are you doing now? Why is that file on your desk? Why did you staple this 1/4 inch from the top instead of 1/2 an inch?") She was nuts.
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