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Be the Temp Everyone Wants to Work With

By Cathy Reilly

Temporary employment is a three-sided work relationship among the client company where temps are placed, the staffing service, and the temporary employee.

As a temp, you are always going to be linked to your staffing service and to the potential client companies where you perform your work assignments.

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This means you have two employment partners who will assess your skills, abilities, and performance. These partners are the pipeline for your work.

Impress either, and you'll stack the odds in your favor for continuing work assignments. Impress them enormously, and you could receive an offer for a full-time position.

The good news is that as a temp, you are actually in the business of You, Inc. This means you are your own product. No one but you can bring the exact same formula to your temp assignments. Because of this, you have the ability to stand out and make yourself memorable and desirable as an employee.

As a temporary employee, it pays to realize that many client companies are impressed by temps who treat their temporary work assignments like a full-time job. Assuming skill and experience levels can be met, demonstrate basic good business practices such as being on time, dressing appropriately, making a great first impression, demonstrating a positive attitude, being respectful and considerate of others.

These are the steps you can take, for each of your employment partners, to become the temp everyone wants to work with:

From the Client Company's perspective:

  • Understand the company's culture.

    In a word, a company's culture is their "personality". For a temp, (or any employee for that matter), being able to relate well to that personality is extremely important. It means fitting in with the norms and behaviors of a company's policies, practices, employees, and management. Not being able to mesh well can really be a problem. When new, keep your eyes open, observe, and learn!
  • Be easy to train.

    Take notes, and refer to them. Engage in training by asking relevant questions, expressing understanding of concepts and details. Know who you can go to for help on the job and where to find information on your own so you can be as self-sufficient as possible.
  • Know how to build rapport.

    Understand how to be friendly without the need to "make friends" on work assignments with both employees and managers. Don't ask prying or personal questions of those you work with. By the same token, don't reveal too much about your own personal life or work situation. Keep things light and general, after all... it is a work environment.
  • Don't get too familiar too fast.

    Being new at a company you need to respect boundaries (both physically and socially) within the workspace. Some examples are: not helping yourself to supplies, snacks, or coffee, and not passing judgments on the client's processes, practices, employees, or management. While temps need to be comfortable on assignments, there is a line not to be crossed that shows a sense of entitlement or the right to make criticisms.
  • Be adaptable and flexible.

    Develop a "go with the flow" attitude and be ready for constant changes. Change is the nature of temporary work, so be a capable chameleon.

From the Staffing Service's perspective:

Stay in touch.

  • Keep the staffing service updated on your assignment status and how things are going. Don't let them be caught unaware or with surprises. Ask them how you can be helpful to them and the practices you can follow that would make their job easier.
  • Provide insight.

    Temps are a valuable source of information about the client company to their staffing service because they have a bird's eye view and real-world experience. Help the staffing service develop an even greater knowledge about how things really tick inside their client's company. With this advantage, the staffing service can provide even better service and place temps who can be very effective.
  • Don't be high maintenance or needy.

    Be easy to reach, responsive, and self-sufficient. Know how to figure things out on your own so you don't have to be spoon-fed every step of the way. Keep things simple and streamlined on your end.
  • Be a fine representative.

    Remember, temps are the face of the staffing service in front of a client, so represent the staffing service with the highest of professionalism. Client companies certainly notice a temp's behavior, attitude, and protocols. Give them cause to look at you as one of their own future representatives!

Bottom Line

Consider your temporary work as an opportunity to stay up-to-date, perhaps learning some new skills, while you earn an income, expand your network, and perhaps garner some good recommendations for that next permanent job (if a permanent job is what you want). Temping does also provide you with the opportunity to "audition" for a permanent job - read "Temporary Work Can Be a Job Audition" for more information.


About the author...

Cathy A. Reilly is the author of The Temp Factor: The Job Seeker’s Guide to Temporary Employment and The Temp Factor: The Complete Guide to Temporary Employment for Staffing Services, Clients, and Temps. For more information about temporary employment, read Cathy’s books, or email her at thetempfactor@aol.com. Follow Cathy on Twitter @cathyareilly, and connect with her on LinkedIn.