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Temping Agencies in general
Member Name: teagirl
Temping Agencies in general
Date: 11/03/03, updated on 11/03/03 (3751 review reads)
Advantages: Flexibility, Variety of jobs, Meet new people
Disadvantages: No sick pay, Only paid for hours worked & timesheets tedious, Can feel left out
Firstly, I must apologise for the length of this op, but as well as being a review of temping, I hope that there's some useful, practical advice in here for anyone thinking of giving temping a go.
On and off, I have been a temp for a total of about 2 years of my fairly short working career (less than 5 years.) Contrary to popular belief and despite my dooyoo name, although I enjoy making the tea, I have never actually earned money from serving tea. The kind of temp work I will discuss is office-based work, so think agencies like "Office Angels" and "Spring", as opposed to industrial ones like "Pertemps" and "Manpower" (which specialise in truck driving, packing in factories and catering.)
Temping, in my view is an excellent way to earn a bit of cash, without the hassle of interviews and the permanence of 'proper jobs'. The beauty of it is that, if you get it right, you can pretty much choose when and where you work. If you take on a 3-week assignment, but then you fancy a week off before starting your next role, you should be able to do this. If you hate the job you're in, you can leave, within reason. It can be a really good way to try
different companies out, and also to get your foot in the door if you like it there. I believe you can make a career out of temping and you can fit it around your lifestyle. At the same time, you don't get job security or sick pay, and you may feel a bit left out of staff schemes. I have tried to categorise the things I think are the most important if you are new to temping, and so I hope you find them useful.
+++Choosing an agency+++
Personal recommendation is always the best, but failing that, there are plenty of agencies listed under "Employment Agencies" in the Yellow Pages. I have generally found smaller agencies (as opposed to National agencies such as Adecco and Spring) more helpful and friendly. Generally the te
sts are easier(!) and things feel a little more personal as they're not dealing with as many temps. However, if they are too small, they won't get as much work in as the bigger agencies. It's a good idea to walk around the local ones to get a feel for what's out there. See how busy they are and whether they have any vacancies in the window that interest you (do not be fooled though, these vacancies rarely actually exist! But they do show what kind of work they usually have available.) You could also ring them up first to find out their rates of pay and if they have any specific requirements before you come in to visit them. Some employers will only use a specific agency, and so it's worth finding this kind of information out first. I would never advise signing up with more than one agency in the first instance! I know it's tempting, but you should only do this if the one you've signed up with turns out to be unsatisfactory. You shouldn't need to have more than one if you're with a good one! It only annoys them if they think you're free but you're actually doing work for another agency. You'll be put further down the list for future jobs, so you're only shooting yourself in the foot if you do this.
+++Visiting the agency for the first time+++
Firstly, you should bear in mind the time of year. If it's the summer and you try and sign up any later than June, the students will have already been in and swiped all of the jobs (unless you can do something specialised, in which case there may be a few jobs left.) It's likely you'll be turned away! If this is the time of year you have to sign up, be prepared to sell yourself and your skills, if you really want work. It's also a good idea to ring the agency in advance to check when they're least busy. Friday afternoon and Monday morning are usually when they're processing timesheets, so you should avoid these times if possibl
I have never dressed smartly to visit a temping agency, but it can't hurt to wear something other than jeans if this makes you feel better. The main tip I can give you is to be confident. The staff will have seen loads of people like you all day, and so you'll find that even if you can type 100 words per minute, they won't believe you, because people will have been lying about their abilities to them all day! Be prepared, look organised and be persistent! I suggest you take the following with you:
*Several copies of an up-to-date CV
*Your National Insurance Number (and your P45 if you have one)
*Your bank details
*Pen and paper
Show them your CV, tell them what sort of work you want, in what area and ask if they have anything available. If they don't have anything immediately, don't worry, as they'll be getting new work in all the time, and something could even come up while you're there. (They may have had something anyway, but want to get to know you a bit better before they'll offer it to you.) You'll be asked to fill in lots of forms (more on that later) and to do a test! Most small agencies will simply ask you to do a typing test. Large, national-type agencies may also ask you to do an MS Word test, which could be simple, or it could be a nasty one where they ask you to do something a bit more complex like a mail merge. Now normally that would be fine, but if you accidentally click on the wrong menu (which is likely under pressure), it deducts points from your score! Other tests I have had have included basic maths, spelling and data entry tests.
You'll either be asked to fill this in on the day or to take it away (if they've not got much work for you.) Adecco ask you to input your details directly onto their computer, but other agencies have paper forms. Whatever the system, this is where your CV comes in handy, because you j
ust copy down all
the relevant educational/employment history for them.
When you sign up with the agency, you'll sign a contract containing minuscule small print, but this will cover things such as keeping confidential any information that you find out about when you work for companies etc. It should cover what the agency requires from you and in return what it will do for you. You may also get extra paperwork explaining how that particular agency's holiday pay
scheme works, or their requirements for handing in your timesheet.
If you don't have a P45 to give the agency, you will also have to sign a P46 tax form, which specifies whether this is your only/main job, and will dictate how you are taxed. N.B: you may find you are 'emergency taxed' for the first few weeks, and you may need to claim this back at the end of the tax year by sending your P60 to the relevant Inland Revenue office (you find this out by asking your agency which office they use.)
+++Accepting and Preparation for a temp role+++
Once you have been accepted into the agency, you should be prepared for them to ring you at any time. You should be aware that even though you may have told them you specifically don't want Call Centre work, and you want full-time work, that they may call you with a part-time position in a call centre! If you really don't want to do it, don't! Tell them this isn't what you asked for. Quite often, in the same 'phone call, they'll offer you something better. A good
agency will be able to offer you a range of jobs, so don't feel pressured into taking the first thing they offer!
Once you've agreed to a job, you need to do a small amount of prep work. Okay, so a two-week post working as a receptionist at the local health authority may not be your dream job, so you don't need to go all-out learning the doctors' names in advance or any
thing. However, you m
ay end up enjoying the environment and if you're good at what you do, you'll be in with more of a chance if a vacancy comes up. If you are looking for permanent work, on your first day you should always be on your best behaviour!
Two essential temp items are (1) a map of the local area (2) a mobile 'phone. Put the agency's number and the contact number of the person you are to report to on your first day into your phone (store it under 'work' if you're worried you'll never be able to find it.) This is so that if you get lost or your bus is delayed on the first day, you'll be able to ring your contact to explain (or ask directions!) The day before your job starts, make sure you look at your map and are confident about where you will be working. If you're working at a large institution like a university, try and get hold of a campus
map to help you identify buildings. Make sure you know how long your journey will take at that time of day and allow a few extra minutes for unexpected delays or problems finding the right building.
If you feel a bit nervous, you may not consider what you'll do for lunch on your first day! However, it's always a good idea to take something in case there is no canteen or shops nearby. I always take sandwiches and a can of coke, in case there's no tea/coffee-making facilities (imagine that!) I can't survive without caffeine, so the coke comes in useful sometimes!
Unless you're told to wear a uniform or something specific, or you know you're going to be working somewhere where a suit is appropriate, be fairly smart, but don't worry too much about buying clothes for a temp job. Remember, there's no point wasting money on clothes for a possible short-term job, when you haven't even started earning to pay for them! If you haven't got anything smart enough, borrow something for the firs
t day, if necessary, and th
en you can get an idea of what everyone else wears and you can dress more appropriately in future. I find that smart trousers and a top is fine, but you should dress according to the type of work you will be doing and whether or not you're likely to be dealing with the public. For example, jeans may be okay for a data entry job, but not for reception work.
INTRODUCING YOURSELF & THE FIRST DAY
Don't worry too much about this. Just introduce yourself as the temp and ask to see the contact name you've been given. If you can't remember names easily, write it down and look at it just before you go in. Most employers will be really friendly and your first hour or so you'll be shown around, shown where the photocopier/toilets/tea & coffee are and generally will be settled in with some small roles to do to get you used to the job. Establish start/finish times and ask who should sign your timesheet. Some firms may offer flexi-time, so
ask, as this could be beneficial to you! As far as the role itself goes, you may feel that you spend the first day just asking questions, but it's better to ask than to get something wrong.
+++Working as a temp+++
WHAT'S IT LIKE?
Once you are settled in, you'll find it's just the same as any other job and you may really enjoy it. If it's a long-term role, the main difference you'll find between it and a 'normal' job will be the weekly timesheets you'll have to complete. Obviously, there are things you'll be missing out on such as staff schemes and job security but your day-to-day work will feel much the same as if you were an employee of that business.
WHAT IF THERE'S A PROBLEM?
Most problems will be identified early on, even within a few hours of starting the role, such as (1) you can't do the work(!) (2) you hate the atmosphere (3) the location is too far to travel to. Generally if you'
;re unable to do the work, your
employer will tell your agency and you will be moved on. If it's something that you're not happy with, tell your agency. It's not worth travelling for hours or at great expense for a temp job. Similarly, if you're not happy with the atmosphere, it's not worth staying. For example, I've enjoyed pretty much all of the temp roles I've done, but one in particular had a strange atmosphere and I knew I couldn't stay! I was only assigned to do a 3-day task, but I only lasted a day and then told the agency I wouldn't return. It's best to ring the agency on your lunch-break (which is why you have their number stored in your mobile) but you could wait till they ring you. They will usually ring you at some point during the first week to check how things are going, although sometimes it's not easy to be truthful if your supervisor's there. If you have just cause, then your agency shouldn't give you any hassle. In my case, I'd been told to arrive at 9am, but the office didn't open till 10am, (losing me an hour's expected pay,) there was nobody to tell me what my role was and in an open-plan office for about 50 people, there were about 4 miserable people, ignoring each other. I relayed this to my agency and didn't suffer adversely because I had chosen to leave.
PAY AND GETTING PAID
Most agencies will pay a standard rate, with increased rates for more
specialised roles or "one-offs", i.e. one day roles which break into your week, perhaps jeopardising your chance of working elsewhere that week. The temping agency I used most recently paid one of the lowest rates (compared to other agencies) but it always has a good selection of work on offer. When you choose your agency, you can base your decision on the rate of pay, but the amount of work on offer and the way you are treated by your agency are also really important. As a guide (pay will var
y for office work around the country,
) hourly pay is around £5.50 in South Yorkshire. Eighteen months ago, it was £4.50. More skilled/specialised office jobs such as medical/legal secretaries can command say £6p/h. I know people from more southern areas have been shocked to hear how low the hourly wage is here, but it is comparable to that of a permanent worker in the same region. Approximately one-third of what the office pays to have you will go to your agency. Bear this in mind when accepting roles/deciding whether or not to stay in a role you're not happy with. Your agency will be making money from you, you don't owe them any favours! Make them work for you! For example, if you've chosen to have a week off from temping, but your agency ring you with a job, stand your ground and say 'no.' Don't ever feel pressured into taking work on. As a temp, you should be paid weekly in arrears. Make sure you keep an accurate record of your hours each day and that your timesheet is signed at the end of the week. If you don't keep an accurate record, it is possible that you may not be paid correctly, but you may never know. I have done one-off very short assignments of only a few hours and found that these timesheets have not always been processed. It's only when checking my timesheets against my payslips that these errors have become obvious. Timesheets are in triplicate, one for the office, one for you and the top (clearest) copy for the agency. An easy way of making sure you're paid for each timesheet is to keep your copy of your timesheet in a ringbinder, and to throw each timesheet away as the relevant payslip comes in. The timesheet number is usually printed on the payslip for ease of reference. The top (agency) copy of the timesheet usually has to be delivered to the agency by the Monday lunchtime following the week you have just worked if you want to get paid that Friday. Either take it in after work on the Friday,
post it, or fax it late Friday or early Mo
nday. (Your office should be happy for you to use their fax machine for this purpose.)If your agency is large, with only one fax machine, you may find it a little tedious waiting for your timesheet to go through during these busy times. Having tried various methods of timesheet delivery, I have found the easiest way is to post them first-class on the Friday evening. I've never had any problems doing it this way, except that I'm down by 27p each week!
Holiday pay entitlement will vary from agency to agency but generally you get a week's holiday pay for every 12 weeks you work (1 hour accrued for every 12 basic hours worked.) Some agencies will require you to actually take the time off, others will allow you to work whilst claiming your holiday pay. If you only temp for a proportion of 12 weeks, you should get a proportion of your holiday pay, but it's worth checking and finding out your agency's specific rules.
TEMP or PERM?
Many temp roles will be short-term, i.e. covering someone's holiday, or you may be employed to do one specific role for a short period of time. However, you may end up covering someone on long-term sick or in a new role for which the employer is looking for a permanent employee. Temping has opened up several permanent positions for me, if I wanted them. There's the added benefit of being a known face so you may even get a permanent role without an interview. Obviously, as I've mentioned before, there are benefits of temp and perm roles, and it depends what you're looking for as to what's best for you. I have recently taken up a permanent position, having temped for almost two years in a row. During that time I was able to try out a range of jobs that used a variety of skills, and take time off whenever I wished. I was able to take advantage of the benefits of temping whilst deciding what to do career-wise. Finally,
I chose an agency offering temporary and perman
ent roles, and I started a permanent role two weeks after requesting one! I am very happy with the job they found me, although I did have to stand my ground and turn down one role that they would have preferred me to have (because they would have earned more commission.)
I would recommend temping if you're going to give it a real go and accept a reasonably amount of work from the agency you sign up with. The agency should work as hard for you as you do for them, and so if you're prepared to put in the effort, you can either make it a career or use it to earn short-term cash and gain experience of working.