How does temping work?

For reasons too complicated to go into here, I will be jobless for a month (mid-May to mid-June). Obviously this is too brief a time for me to get any meaningful job. I would like to work at least part-time during this period, if possible. Could a temp agency help me find something to fill this short period of time with some sort of employment?


That’s the whole point of temps. Go down and talk to someone about your skills and they will probably ask you to fill out an applicaiton listing your background and education etc. If they know of a company that needs your skills they will try and arrange an interview for you. If they can place you they make a commission. Companies that work with temp agencies usually are only looking for short term help.

Thanks. I just wasn’t sure if a month-long window was too short for me to be looking to a temp agency for employment.

How it’s worked in my experience: You call up a temp agency and say you’re looking for work. They tell you to come in. You go in; they have you fill out some forms and maybe take some basic skills tests (Office proficiency, numeracy, proofreading, typing speed). They will probably ask what type of work you’re looking for, and how long. If you’ve only got a month you may be able to get something that’ll last all month, or you may only get offered day-to-day stuff.

Most of the actual work that temps do is crap. The pay is generally not fantastic. However, crappy work for meh pay beats no pay for no work.

(Sources: having temped with four different agencies in three different countries)

I actually wouldn’t mind day-to-day stuff either. Like I said, I’m just looking for something to tide me over for four weeks.

Another question - would my MA make me look overqualified for most of the stuff they’d offer? I had a friend who temped and she said sometimes they’d pass her over for jobs because they thought she’d get bored and quit too soon (she had a BA in literature).

Possibly. The easy fix for that is to not mention your MA. “Some college” is a good line. Frankly, it’s not like you’re going to worry about maintaining a good working relationship beyond the month with whatever agency you go to, right?

This goes back 20 years, but I knew a woman who mostly worked for temp agencies. She worked at the same job for over a year, and said that the main reason companies used temps was to avoid the expense of fringe benefits that they would incur with regular employees. I expect that that is even more the case today, with the skyrocketing cost of health insurance.

The temps I worked with pretty much all had university degrees, but, for one reason or another, needed temporary employment. It didn’t seem to be a hindrance to them and it certainly wasn’t for me when I did the temp thing for a few months (about 4 or 5). I recommend Mack and Associates for Chicago. I was registered at a couple of places, but they quickly and consistently placed me, leaving me with almost no down time when I most needed immediate work. YMMV, of course.

Why don’t you apply for unemployment benefits? It sure beats working.

HazelNutCoffee, one thing I found that helped when I was temping was to call the temp agency often, so that they know you’re serious about finding something. I’ve had a couple of temp jobs, and the first one was a “monkey could do it” type thing and had nothing to do with my qualifications. (Which was cool, I was poor and happy to have a source of income.) I’m pretty sure I only got it because I was persistant. Registering with more than one temp agency might be a good idea.

I’ll probably be doing some temping this summer. I have a couple months with nothing to do and could use the money. Data entry. Stamping envelopes. Can’t wait!

I did ‘short notice’ temping for a few weeks before securing a 12 month temp contract with my current company. I, too, was overqualified for the work I did, but I had explained that I woudl prefer to do simple work than no work at all.

Short notice temping is where you get called it because someone is off sick or on holiday, so you might get called in for a day, a couple of days, or a whole week at a time.
The amount of short notice work you get will vary but you might strike it lucky and be in work the full month. Best thing to do is call an agency to find out.

Hah. I don’t think I qualify for unemployment benefits. I’m not a citizen nor am I a resident alien. And this may sound stupid, but I’d rather be working than sitting around doing nothing.

Thanks for the advice everyone :slight_smile: pulykamell, I’ll check that agency out.

Not directly realted to your situation, but you did ask how they work:
Companies also use temp agencies to evaluate new staff before hiring them, as they need no reason to get rid of you if you’re a temp. I applied for a position as a QC microbiologist for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, and after the interview they sent me to a temp agency to fill out an application. I then worked for the temp agency for 3 months before becoming an employee of the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Whether or not a month is too short, or an MA is too qualified, depends a lot on the market conditions that month. It all depends on the temp service’s customers.

In my experience temping, the folks who need temps may be consciously trying out potential long-term employees like **masterofnone **describes, or may be trying to get around giving benefits like Oslo Ostragoth’s friend experienced, or may really only anticipate having work for a few weeks. Sometimes they don’t know themselves and are trying to cover all bases.

Many temp agencies will listen if you tell them what you’re looking for, be it a possible permanent job or truly temporary work.

I’ve worked with several temp agencies over the last 30 years and a lot of them are in the business of just getting a warm body in there and don’t care if you are there a week or a year or get the job of your dreams, so long as they get paid. This has been true for day labor work (loading trucks at the post office), office work (I worked as a office messanger before fax machines came into being), manufacturing temp (my stockroom “experiance”), engineering (serveral years as a CAD expert/jockey) and management (project manager for hire) positions. I’ve seen seen them place known alcoholics into responsible positions. I’ve seen place highly degreed individuals into slave labor positions. I’ve known them to doctor up peoples resumes to fit the position that a customer had available.

Yes, there is a temp agency out there that will hire you. :cool:

I have also seen an interesting trend lately. Temp agencies that do background screening and drug testing for any and all positions. I guess the industry got so sleazy that it was inevidable that this type of service would start to be required. Just about every hiring manager I’ve ever meet has a horror story about a temp that was placed in there office.

I temped for several years just because I liked having a new office to work in every three months or so, and I noticed that if you have halfway decent office skills, show up approximately on time every day, and actually WORK, you can be a temping god. The general quality of worker that my agency had to send out was abominable. I remember temping for one home nursing agency and hearing the floor supervisor asking everyone 'Where’s Jane?", Jane being the other temp that my agency sent to that location. This went on for about 30 minutes. They finally found her standing out on the off-limits balcony (actually an OLD wraparound second-story porch, not terribly safe or stable) hiding and smoking cigarettes. Seriously, if you have even a sliver of responsibility, you can almost dictate your terms once your capabilities are known.

What kind of work does your visa allow you to do? Are you tied to a specific job?

No, it’s sort of a general work permit thing. Well technically I’m supposed to be doing stuff related to my major and my degree, but my MA is in humanities, so that covers everything from teaching to asking, “Do you want fries with that?” :wink:

I temped for awhile when I first moved to Chicago. My best advice is to sign up with as many temp agencies as possible so that you have a better shot at getting some work lined up. I’ve had agencies actually tell me to do this, since they’re not sure how quickly they’ll have something for you.

Also, you won’t hurt anybody feelings if you turn down an offered position. Temp agencies are used to that.

Most positions I was offered were one or two day gigs with the occasional 2 or 3 week assignment. I lucked into a 2-month long job covering for someone on maternity leave that helped land me a full-time position when the temp job was over.