Tell Me About Temp Work/Employment Agencies

Hi all,

After I’m done with my NanoWriMo this year, I guess I better get around to being employed again. After 13 years of managing vet hospitals though, I’m still not sure I want to go back to it and would not mind trying something different, at least until I decide I miss furry faces.

I’ve been thinking of working with one of the temp agencies and just wanted to get opinions/experiences of going that route. Accountemps apparently also offers some online classes- I have experience using Excel for example but I wouldn’t call myself proficient, especially when it comes to building sheets/using formulas, so I was leaning towards them.

My strengths are in administrative work, payroll, accounts payable/receivable, etc and I have a strong customer service background. Really, I just want to see if I can tolerate actually having to maintaining a professional wardrobe (been wearing scrubs for the last decade) :O). I thought this might be a good way to see what’s out there and hopefully not stumble into any nightmare positions. Good or bad, I want to hear it!

They used to be OK, I was shocked at this recession after two years of temp jobs, there were months like August and Sept where Account Temps couldn’t come up with a single job for me. And I live in Chicago and used to be an asst controller and they couldn’t even find me a lousy data entry job.

Temp jobs are always the “crap” jobs, so realize that. But the nice thing is if it’s too bad you can just not go back.

For every “bad” thing about temping there is an equal “good” thing about it, so in the end you’ll be OK with it.

The thing I recommend is take advantage of every free thing the agency offers. Like if they offer free training or free interview lessons or whatever they have for free take it. It really helps.

My last recommend is don’t just sign with one agency and wait. This economy is bad enough to sign up with a bunch of different temp agencies. I do this and sometimes you will still only get one or two days a week from multiple agencies.

Thanks for the advice- that was one of the more attractive perks of Accountemps, the free training plus I can refresh myself on programs I used before (had the same job and therefore limited software exposure for last 9 1/2 years) and what they and Appleone have advertised as far as positions on Monster sound compatible. This way I can get a realistic view of my skill level, hopefully and also buy time while some of my government applications are being processed.

I think the key is remembering that they are not working for YOU. They are working for the client that pays them. Make it easy (and profitable) for them, and that will incentivize them to take care of you. Take the first few assignments they give you, regardless of what they are. Work hard, be on time, be a professional. That’s how you get the better assignments.

Realize that times are hard, and even a temp firm can’t guarantee you a position right now.

Absolutely sign up with more than one firm.

I worked many years for Kelly Services, off and on. They also have training, and in fact I got my start in office computing through their training program, which gave me several permanent jobs and a couple decades of solid income.

Unfortunately, when I went back to them after my most recent layoff they said they couldn’t get enough assignments for they people they already had, try back later. Well, at least they were honest. I tried signing up with Office Team, but I felt they really strung me along for several months and I got nothing from them whatsoever, not even a phone call the time or two I was promised someone from their office would call me back.

Every local office has a different cast of characters. If one office doesn’t work out try another (if there’s more than one fairly close). If one agency doesn’t work out try another.

Anyhow, I’d say 3/4 of being a successful temp comes down to attitude. Here is what worked for me:

**1) Remember that if you get real money for real work it’s a real job **- treat it like one. Seriously, I saw a lot of people screw up on this one. Professional/appropriate attire (sometimes the job requires you to dress down - when I was assigned to a construction site I needed to wear jeans and workboots, not skirt and pumps), proper grooming, show up on time, be reliable, whenever possible give multiple days notice of unavailability, and so on.

**2) Remember who you work for **- you work for the temp agency, not the client you are assigned to. Do everything you can to make things easy for your supervisor, follow the agency rules, take advantage of training, etc. Last time I worked for Kelly they needed people to be on-call on week day mornings for last minute requests. I volunteered pretty much any day I didn’t have an assignment and there was a slot open. I showed up ready to work. If I was sent on call, bravo. If I wasn’t sent on call I asked for further computer training, thereby demonstrating that I was willing to work AND serious about improving my skills.

**3) Remember what your job is **- you’re a professional temporary employee. That means you need to be flexible. You’re the substitute, the pinch-hitter, the cavalry in a crisis. If you show up expecting data entry and find out what they really need is a receptionist smile sweetly, ask if you can have a minute to call your supervisor (so he/she knows what’s going on - remember, THAT person is your manager, not the client), then say “of course I’ll do it!” Unless, of course, it’s something you’re not qualified to do, in which case definitely call your supervisor. Be willing to do anything legal.

4) Remember that they wouldn’t be calling for help if there wasn’t a problem. You’re going to be walking into everything from a well-considered plan to hire warm bodies to sudden absences due to illness or even death of employees. I’ve worked at construction sites, libraries, in basements, in skyscrapers, in small offices, big offices, foreign-owned companies. I’ve filled in for people on vacations and honeymoons. I’ve filled in for the injured and ill. I once worked at a clinic across the street from a public housing project infamous for shootings and violence where most new hires never returned after their first day (that led to a permanent job). During all this, you will encounter office politics, nice people, mean people, people in a panic, bigots… ALL types and personalities. Smile (grit your teeth if you have to), don’t get any more involved than you have to, avoid controversial topics, and work your butt off.

5) Remember there are a lot of BAD temps - and you will have to battle against that perception and prejudice. Quite often you’ll show up and find someone treating you like a moron or slacker - because they’ve experienced that, or heard about that. Prove them wrong by doing the best job you can with some enthusiasm and good cheer. Remember - no matter how bad it is you don’t have to work there permanently. In fact, you’ll probably be gone in a week or two, if not days. You can handle it.

**6) Remember you have to earn your place in the temp world. ** Your first few assignments will probably be low skill and boring (not always, but it’s typical). As you continue to prove yourself you will be given better assignments. After a year or so I would get to the point where I would be sent out on difficult assignments, interesting assignments, and I would be offered a choice of assignments about half the time. I occasionally got overtime, and earned some paid vacation. Was even Kelly Employee of the Month at one point for basically saving someone’s bacon and making everyone look good, both at the client’s office and the Kelly office.

Temping wasn’t always fun, but I did enjoy it more often than not. Good luck. And hurry up - I’ll be checking back with the temp agencies myself on Monday, so you’ll want to get there ahead of me. :wink:

I’m temping right now, as I write this. I have a regular, full-time job, with benefits and everything, as the word processing supervisor of a mid-sized New York law firm, but my significant other got laid off early this year, and we need the money. So I’ve been working second shifts as a word processing operator at firms (mostly big ones) in the city. The summer was slow, but things seem to be picking up, and I’m getting a fair amount of work. The pay is decent (around $30 per hour). I’m really good at this, so everywhere I go, they ask for me again. That’s pretty much the key to getting work as a temp.

One thing, though – boy, am I tired. I get off my regular job at 5:00. I show up for my second shift temp jobs at 5:30. I usually work until 12:30. Then I go home, go to sleep, and get up at 6:00. I’ll work weekends, too, if I get a call.

Thanks Broomstick and Niblethead - now you have me kind of excited about it :).

No worries, I’m a worker and I show up on time and hate to slack in general, so hopefully I can make a good impression. I also want to see how I’ll do out of a management role- not that I’ll leave it forever, but honestly I’m tired of being the bad guy (hiring/firing/discipline/etc) but in my field, I did not adjust well the last time I went from managing to just plain receptionist (too easy, not enough responsibility at the time) . That was ten years ago though, and I would like to try on something different.

I’ve always had good luck with them in the past, but this last year, I’ve contacted several and they have told me it would be a waste to come in, except to apply for a specific job (used to be I’d go in and I would fill out a bunch of forms and take a test or two and they would offer like 3-4 jobs). The last 6 months I’ve probably applied online at 6 different temp jobs (not all technical related either), and even applied for a few specific jobs.

I think the high unemployment just makes it harder on them to find you anything unless you are super qualified (and they would naturally take you first).

I’ll contribute to the negative side of temping.

  1. As a male, I often got drafted for dirty work. If I was doing data entry and they needed someone to haul stuff, guess who got stuck doing it in dress clothes?

  2. Lots of weird, awkward situations. The bastard at a family reunion feeling. One in particular I remember was my second day on an assignment. The entire office, over 100 people, had a meeting which featured a company update as well as the United Way pledge drive. The guy who was supervising me told me to come along as I couldn’t work unsupervised. They roll out a huge spread of food. My lunch is back in the work area. I didn’t know if I was invited to eat, so I just grabbed a bottle of water. Spent the rest of the afternoon starving. A few days later, the company announced a company wide casual day. I showed up dressed casual and was removed from the position that night with a message on my voice mail.

  3. Some companies will bring you in and not have any idea how long the job you’re brought in to do will actually take. So, if they bring you in to do something that ends up taking 4 hours a day, they’ll come up with some busy work for you to do. It is usuallly something that they’ll make up on the spur of the moment and have no idea how it should be done. You’ll be given boxes of files dating back to the 1970s and asked to organize them. These are files that have been in their storage area for decades and no one will toss them but no one knows what to do with them or what should be saved. Now, how is the temp supposed to know what’s important and what’s not? So, you’re interrupting people and they have no idea what to do with the files, those files have been in storage since they were hired 5 years ago.

The only drawback to temp work is that you do need to finish assignments even if you don’t like them, unless there’s something egregious going on.

It was a long time ago, but when I was in college I temped in the summers, and was signed up with 5 different agencies. Winter and spring breaks they often had week or 2-week long assignments if I wanted them. Being a college student, I didn’t do much above data-entry, light reception, and some “clean” warehouse stuff that was actually rather brainless and sorta fun.

I’ll never forget White Collar Agency though, who sent me to a hotel where it turned out I had to clean rooms. I called them, told them this was not office work, and they told me to deal until the end of the day. OK. I did it for the day, hated every second of it, nearly vomited twice because other peoples messes totally gross me out - I even have a hard time with my own family’s dirty dishes. I told them I wouldn’t do it again, and that it was against the type of work I agreed to do for them, and they blacklisted me from then on. If I had known they would blacklist me, I would have walked out in the morning and not had that unforgettable day when I had to clean out a tub with the most man-hair all over it I’ve ever seen.

I stayed signed up with the other four agencies who never did stuff like that to me and I had plenty of work, didn’t need White Collar anyway.

That was my only bad experience, though.

When I worked for a Fortune 500 bank in the Trust Tax department, we always had a crew of temps from Jan-Apr. Some were a joke, some got hired permanently. It was a good pool to find new employees from, especially people who already had accounting experience.

I worked a temp job doing technical writing some years ago. The guy who was our supervisor had a Masters in Marine Biology and knew nothing about technical writing. All we could figure was the company was desperate for a supervisor and threw a lot of names in a hat. His was drawn and it was bad luck for all. His office was about five miles from our work site so we emailed him our documents at they were done. This is hard to believe but I swear it is true: He put all the original documents he received into his trash can icon, thinking they would be safe there. Eventually, the network administrator noticed that he had quiet a lot of stuff in his trash can and deleted it. There were a couple of days of pure panic but of course the network admin had backups of everything so aside from some humor and a few death threats, it all worked out. So for future assignments, I learned to ask as many questions of them as they asked of me.

Jesus - ever hear of merging thread instead of just cutting one off at the knees? Here’s my post from the other thread:
Register with as many agencies as you like (or as it takes) - probably wait a day or two between each. Agree to taking the first job they offer (if it isn’t too long-term if it sucks) - a temp who wants to work will get work. It doesn’t take much to impress the agency after you start working either - show up on time, dressed properly, and willing to work, and don’t leave at lunch (permanently) or go get drunk, and you are a Gold Level Temp.

You can apply online or in person - if in person, you should be prepared to stay and test and interview. If you don’t hear from them, feel free to call them and ask to be registered; temp agencies usually like to register as many people as possible, and they aren’t the same as regular employers with regards to calling them and asking for work basically.

If you’re willing to do entry level stuff like data entry, filing, and reception, you should be working right away.

One thing I’d warn you against is that temp agencies have an attitude that they’re doing you a favour by finding you jobs, but the truth is that it is a very effective symbiotic relationship - they find you work, you do the work, they get paid, they pay you - everyone wins. It is also at-will employment - you can quit for any or no reason, and they can let you go for any or no reason. Don’t let them try to tell you otherwise.

Cat Whisperer thanks for the advice- I saw your post on the other thread. Before you give me (I think) a hard time about this thread, you might check on the time I posted it, a almost 12 hours before the other thread. Geeesh.

Yeah, that was my fault. I didn’t scan the other threads before I posted the other temp one. Strange coincidence. Also, I think Cat Whisperer was directing frustration at the mods for closing my thread instead of merging it over here (can they merge threads?)

In any case, this thread has been really encouraging. I’m looking forward to some good, hard grunt work. I just hope there’s some out there for me.

Thanks some white guy, I’ve been on a short fuse lately so now that I had time for it to process :wink: I get it. Sorry Cat Whisperer

Yeah, it was the closing one and just leaving the posts behind that was irking me, not either of youse. :slight_smile: