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Work when you want to, for whom you want to!
Temping Agencies in general
Member Name: sy2kgbr
Temping Agencies in general
Advantages: Work when you want to...
Disadvantages: ...but only if there's an assignment available.
For a lot of people, I'm guessing it doesn't bring brilliant connotations - as a temp, you're moving around and there's a general lack of stability. As an employer, maybe you see temps as a waste of money. You pay them AND a third party for the work they do! Maybe as an employee you find yourself working with a lot of temps who don't seem to do very much?
Well, as someone who has been working for a temping agency for the past three years now, I'm proud to call myself a temp and I hope to explain why, in the following review. As with any profession, there are upsides and downsides, but hopefully by giving you as much information as possible, you'll form a more 'informed' opinion either way.
WHY DO I TEMP?
First of all, I guess I should explain my situation. I'm an undergraduate student, and because I enjoy being able to eat, I work during my vacations. In my particular town, the range of summer jobs on offer is always uninspiring with pathetic wages and I've always been turned down for them anyway, on the grounds that I'm "overqualified". I don't really understand the thinking behind that - if you want to employ someone for a temporary summer job and not on a permanent basis, why do you care if they're overqualified? Are you scared they're going to leave you at the end of the summer? Wait a moment, isn't that what you wanted them to do in the first place...? Hmmm.
As for Christmas seasonal vacancies - they actually start around October or November, not exactly Christmassy, are they? I'm still at university then (my term doesn't finish until a couple of weeks before Christmas Day, usually).
Easter vacancies? Do they even exist?
As a student, my time away from uni is bit mixed up here and there, so it's difficult to find a temporary job direct from a company. This is where my temping agency really shines - I call them up a week before I'm back in the city and they always have a job lined up for me.
People say that temping has no job security, but in my town, if you're a good temp, there's always work on offer. I like knowing that if I get stuck in a place that doesn't appeal to me, I don't have to stay, I like the fact that my duties will always vary from assignment to assignment (each company has its own specific in-house policies) and I like the fact that a lot of the time, I'm actually making a difference. I don't mean that I do anything particularly skilled, but by taking on certain duties, I take the pressure off the permanent employees. Which makes them do their own respective jobs better. Happy client, happy agency, happy temp.
HOW AM I TREATED BY MY AGENCY?
I enjoy a very good relationship with my temping agency. If I accept an assignment, I turn up on time and do it well. It's not much to ask of a person, but apparently a lot of temps don't do that. Which is why my agency likes me - I'm reliable. In return, the recruitment consultants offer me the better assignments that come in and don't sulk if I turn down one. We're honest with each other - I tell them where I will and will not work, the type of assignments I prefer, if I see a client treating one of our other temps badly (so they know not to blacklist that temp) and anything else I think is useful, or they ask to know. They give me as many details as possible about an assignment before I commit to it (if it's a really busy one, they do warn me, or if it's dull, they tell me that too) and if they don't know the answer to something, they tell me; they don't make something up.
As for payroll - the accountants make sure I'm paid promptly, every week. I make sure my timesheet reaches them before noon on Tuesday, a payslip arrives the following Thursday and on the Friday, my pay is wired directly to my bank account. Sorted. In the three years I've been with them, they've only made a mistake once - when they introduced a new payroll system last year, they accidentally deducted taxes (as a student, I only pay NI) but all I had to do was call them. They admitted straight away they'd made a mistake and said they'd add the missing amount onto my payslip for the following week, unless I needed the money urgently, in which case they could work something out. Can't fault that for service.
HOW AM I TREATED BY THE CLIENT?
In general, my experiences with client companies have been good. However, sometimes as a temp, you will be 'replacing' a well-loved colleague and the friends of this person can feel threatened that you might be in line to 'steal' this person's job. One time I replaced a receptionist on sick leave (she'd lost her voice, what a terrible thing to happen to a receptionist!) and we actually shared the same first name. Not only did I do her job well, but I took on other responsibilities and I had the same name. A lot of callers thought we were the same person. So, the ladies in the office pretty much hated me.
I started dropping into conversation, "So, WHEN I go back to uni in October..." but it took a long time for them to take the hint that I did not want to be permanent.
The men in the office were sympathetic and stuck up for me, and when I did eventually leave that assignment, the director bought me the hugest bunch of flowers I have ever seen, paid for out of his own pocket, so it wasn't all bad. Learned a lot about office politics during that assignment!
Certain companies are used to temps, as they have a policy of taking X amount of temps on at certain times of the year and/or always arrange cover externally (ie. through an agency). It's at these companies where people are more receptive to the work that temps do (because they realise temps actually do have a useful purpose), give decent handovers and try to integrate temps into working life, by offering to go for coffee with them, for example.
The experience you have varies from company to company, but in general, it's normally quite good. Of course, knowing that in most cases you will be moving on in a matter of days/weeks can be a bit sad, but it comes with the territory.
WILL I TEMP FOREVER?
I enjoy what I do and do it well, but in a year I'm hoping to have graduated with a half decent degree and have possibilities of better paying, more skilled jobs available to me. Of course I don't want to be a receptionist for the rest of my life if I can work for one of the big graduate companies like PwC earning two to three times as much.
However, if I ever find myself between jobs (for example, I doubt I'm going to walk into a job after uni, I will need some time to find one), I would definitely go back to temping. Absolutely. It keeps you busy and it's a source of income. If you can't earn big bucks, small bucks is better than none.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU'RE WORKING WITH A TEMP?
In general, we temps are actually naturally helpful creatures. If something needs doing, we'll do it, but PLEASE do give clear instructions first. People who say things such as "Well, you just kind of do it", or "I'm not really sure, someone does a thing a bit like that and well, that's it", really aren't going to get the most out of their temp. We only need telling the once, but you really need to explain things properly. Vague directions and hand waving really won't do!
Be nice to us. We don't stick around for long, so seize the opportunity to be a nice person while you can!;)
Please tell us where the toilets are and where we can go for lunch. They're tiny things, but appreciated. And find out what we're called - it's a bit demoralising to be known as "the new temp".
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU WANT TO BECOME A TEMP?
A lot of people sign up with more than one temping agency at the same time, but more fool them. You are obliged to tell your agencies who else you're signed up with and they're bound to treat you less favourably. Before signing up with anyone, do a little research. Which temping agencies operate in your area? More than one? What type of vacancies do they tend to offer? What's the pay like? Which agency tends to be more popular with the offices you know?
Once you decide which agency is the best, you need to arm yourself with an up-to-date CV, the details of two referees and visit the agency to sign on. You're required to take various in-house tests there and then - one is to assess your typing speed; the other your general skills with standard programs. Doesn't take long, and equally, it's not hard to do well. Practise your typing first before going in - there are loads of free tests available on the internet for you to try out. "Free typing test" entered into Google normally does the trick.
Be realistic - if you don't like driving to certain areas or your bus service doesn't cover certain places, tell your recruitment consultant. Listen to the advice offered and take onboard what is said. Ask what your prospects look like - when they reckon they'll be able to get you into your first assignment and how busy the agency is at the moment. Don't forget to ask how often you should be calling in to touch base - when I first started, I was advised to keep calling every other day to make sure everyone knew I was still keen to get an assignment. These days, they call me, I don't call them, but it's not unusual when you start out to advised to call more often than you think you should.
If it turns out you made a mistake and the agency you've signed up with is rubbish, you can always jump ship.
Temping isn't for everyone. It's not always easy, adapting to a new work environment what seems like every other day (and sometimes IS in fact every other day) or forming good working relationships with people who think you're not going to stick around long enough for it to be worth them bothering to get to know you. It is important to have a fairly thick skin in this line of work for those reasons alone, but that's not to say temping doesn't have its advantages.
Unlike most contracts, both the temp and the client company can discreetly express a dislike for the situation and have the temp shipped off somewhere else. Sometimes people just don't get on, and in this day and age, firing someone because you think they're annoying or resigning because you think your boss is ugly just don't hold up well. With temping, it's easy to jump ship if there really is a personality clash. I think that's reassuring for both parties, knowing there's a get-out-clause without legal repercussions, should it be required.
If you have a fairly unstable life, where you can't commit to working for a full calender year without breaks in between every now and again, temping is perfect. It fits around uni, in between jobs and I daresay you could fit it around your childcare (probably not a great idea if you were relying on temping as your family's main source of income though, you have to remember that whilst the work is usually regular, there are no guarantees).
I'm a big advocate both of being a temp and employing a temp. If you didn't find this review very helpful, I hope it was at least interesting to hear my perspective!
Summary: Regular work and regular money, but no guarantees.