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A day in the life of a 'temp'

16 Jan 2015

Being asked to write a guest blogabout being a temp has really made me reflect on my past and present workinglife.

I have been an office temp for 10years which seems astonishing even to myself, but before that I was also a tempfor the last 4 years in my previous career within healthcare.

So I guess I really am a 'careertemp'! My assignments have lasted between one day and the best part of a year andhave varied from very well set up transitions where I have interviewed forroles and had an induction of some sort, to frantic calls at 8.40am asking ifI can get into 'such and such' office as soon as possible to cover suddenabsences and I've needed to hit the groundrunning.

So, in no particular order hereare some of my thoughts.

What qualities make a good temp?

1.      Reliability

I think this is key. I actually find it apoint of integrity that if I say I will take on an assignment that I actuallyturn up for it - on time, with a map of where it is, the phone number and a contact name for who has booked me. I have heard so many tales oftemps who haven't turned up and indeed have covered for them, and it doesastonish me that someone will say they will be somewhere and then not be. Iguess it can be easy to say "yes" to an assignment on a Wednesday and wake up onMonday and feel unnerved at the prospect of travelling to a new place with anunknown workload, but, you have given your word.

2.      Confidence

Being the new person every fewdays or weeks isn't every persons cup of tea and it can be quite daunting towalk into a busy office. You need confident social skills and also confidencein your abilities. Be aware that although you probably possess umpteen skillsand boundless knowledge in your field you may get stumped by the smallestthings. Every in house system has its own foibles, phone systems canlook more like space station consoles than simple communication tools and eventhings like older versions of software than you are used to can mean you arelooking blankly at a toolbar for aeons trying to find a certain button, feelinglike a fool. Particularly when everyone around you looks busy it can feel likeyou are pestering a lot but the key is just simply to have the confidence toask. If you are stumped then trust that you are a competent person and thatanyone else in your situation would probably struggle with it too.

3.      Flexibility

You might find yourself doing the more mundane tasks and feel that yourskillset isn't being utilised and I think there is a degree of balance needed.Whilst you are doing the daily/weekly bread and butter work, it frees someone upto be able to power through their workload which means that you are contributingto that teams productivity. However, it can be useful to point out that youhave a certain skill and that you can perhaps expand your workload. I have seensomeone struggling and getting stressed to meet a deadline and tactfullysuggested that if she could take a few minutes out to show me the system thenshe could delegate a large portion of it to me. Did I mention tact? Itsdefinitely a good quality to have.

4.      Professionalism

With each assignment you arerepresenting yourself, your recruitment company and the company you are placedwith so it goes really without saying that you follow the company rules andremain professional at all times. I am really proud to have had such a longcareer as a temp and part of that pride comes from knowing I have done the jobto the very best of my ability at every company I have worked for. Just becauseyou are not employed directly by a company doesn't mean you shouldn't give 100%,and in the end if you work hard and built a good reputation for yourself youwill get repeat bookings or even a permanent position, your consultant will getgreat feedback and want to place you elsewhere and you can be proud ofyour achievement.

Temping is certainly not for everyonebut the benefits are huge. I am happy to stay a temp but I would say to anyonewas looking for a new position then temping is a fantastic way to network, tobroaden your skills and to really learn about yourself. It may be that you havealways worked for large corporations but actually find yourself absolutelyloving working in a small company with a different ethos. Youwill get to see so many different ways of working and can take ideas and thebest of the practices you see and incorporate them into your own working life.

What is your experience of temping? Do you love the variety of work or prefer to settle into a role? Let us know your thoughts...

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