When I need to step away from my laptop, I work as a ‘Temp’ for an agency. It’s such a great way to work if you can be really flexible. I love the new things I learn and all of the people I meet. I love that I can take a few days or weeks off in between assignments. And temping helps to pay the bills when writing has not made me rich (which is all the time, these days!)
1. Starting out: When you approach an agency as an office temp, you may look good on paper. But they really need to know that you are a super-reliable and competent worker with a great attitude. They will offer you some really dull jobs at first and you should take them. Turn up on time and answer the phone, or file stuff, or whatever, for the two or three day assignment. Be fabulous. Your agency wants to know they can rely on you to turn up with a smile and perform brilliantly, and you won’t get the cool jobs until they know they can.
2. Have a can-do attitude. You will not be expected to do rocket science, unless you have told the agency you can. In which case, too bad for you! So smile and do your best, and you’ll find it’s not that hard.
3. Dress conservatively. Be sure to have boring black trousers, a white blouse and comfortable smart shoes for the first day of all assignments. Hair should be neat, jewellery plain. Once you’ve sussed out the scene you can insert a little personal style if it’s appropriate.
4. Be prepared for early-morning callouts. My agency has called me several times before nine in the morning and asked if I could get to a job RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I find this actually helps me to be organized when I’m working from home. I make sure and have breakfast with the kids every morning, have a shower, and get ready to get my own work done. If the agency calls, I’m halfway ready for anything. Just close my laptop and throw on my smart clothes!
5. You never know what you’ll end up doing. You may arrive to do a data entry job and realise you’re being pulled into a customer service role. Just do it. Do inform the agency afterwards, so that they know, but don’t give up on the job. It would be terribly inconvenient for the company who have hired you and for the agency.
6. Temps are often hired because there is a crisis to manage. It could be that someone has taken a sick day, or a company suddenly realises they need more people to finish a job, or a contractor may have fallen through… You may find that you arrive in the midst of chaos and it’s your job to join the team and help pull them through. This is not the time to show off your skills or make friends, just put your head down and slog through the heaps of stuff until it’s all done.
7. Lunchtime may be late, if a crisis is looming. I keep a packet of nuts or some granola bars in my handbag just in case, so I don’t get the hungry grumps! DO take breaks, stretch your legs, have lunch… but realise it may not happen at 12.00 on the dot. And remember, it’s nice to share your snacks.
8. Keep your agency posted about your movements. If you need to take a week off, let them know well in advance. It’s best to email if you have to inform them of any changes or holidays.
9. Write down what you need to say when you answer the phone. Seriously, the number of times I’ve picked up and said, “Hello, ummm… Where am I? What am I doing here?” Ok, kidding, but when you have to say “Hello, Acme Drugs Corporation, How May I Help You?” one week and “Druckers and Falk, Nan Speaking, Where May I Direct Your Call?” the next… There can be some hilarious moments. And as a temp, we aren’t really meant to be hilarious!
10. Ask for help. Trying to figure out the weird phone, or send something to the OTHER printer? Someone will help you. And you will learn something new, make a friend, and get the job done. Well done you!