Just because this is a temporary job doesn’t mean you can’t make it work to your advantage. Being an awesome temp will give you tons of rewards, far beyond just the money to pay the bills.
Maybe you’re just biding your time in this rough economy, waiting for your next career move. Or maybe you’re stuck in a corporation-induced limbo as a “permanent” in-house temp. Or you could even be building a career as an office temp. Regardless, these tips are for you.
First, behave like you’re in a “real” job. Other people in the office may call you “the temp”, but get to know their names. Take notes in meetings. Dress appropriately. Show up on time. In other words, act like this is a stepping stone to your career, because it is.
Attitude, attitude, attitude. You will get the lousy jobs – that’s why they hired you. Do it with a positive attitude and others will notice. They may not compliment you overtly, but you will stand out from the standard grumpy faces that the temp agencies always seem to find. How do you convey your great attitude? A smile can work wonders. Also, focus on the positive, without being Pollyanna. You can agree that spreadsheets are a pain, but at least your Excel skills are improving!
Be honest. If you’ve never done something before, or if you aren’t exactly sure how to complete the task, be forthright. Five minutes of training is no big deal, and at least you won’t be the temp who jammed the fancy copier trying to send envelopes through the wrong way. Also, don’t fake working or deliberately work slowly to expand a work task. It’s wrong, and unproductive. Work well for your employers.
Stretch. If you are faster than anticipated at your work, you’re likely to be rewarded with something like filing at first. It’s tempting to take the easier roads. Eventually, however, tasks come up that the other company employees just don’t have the time to take – and this is your moment to shine. Learn to say “I can help with that.” Also, pay attention to what is happening around you and the projects others give you. When I was helping type information for one employer I was able to mention a previous temp job in an HR office, and how some similar documents were structured. My supervisor was glad for the input, and gave me flexibility in working on first drafts. Now that’s a new experience to mention in my next job interview.
Take notes. Jot down tasks that you perform on a day to day basis when you get home at night. Also, make a note of any new skill you picked up. Not only will this reinforce your understanding of what you learned (like how you built that pivot table), but it also makes your next resume update much easier as you delineate those great new skills you picked up.
Show respect for the company, but don’t expect the same in return. In one financial temp position, I often had better stats on my data entry than the rest of my department, and had worked there for months. That didn’t stop them from abruptly ending my job one Friday because the work had slowed dramatically. I had zero warning, because I was “just a temp.” Be prepared for this, and build up savings to get you through the lean weeks when jobs might be scarce. As a side note, giving notice if you are leaving a long term temp position is a classy move that employers respect. It gives them a chance to interview and start training someone new before you’re out the door.
Think experience and education. Approach your temp job as a training center, or a real-world college business course. Focusing on what you are learning about a specific industry (health care administration, manufacturing, etc) helps connect your broad experiences as a temp to one cohesive picture of a business guru in training. Each job may feel like an island unto itself, but it really feeds the broader course of your career. You never know when you may need to call on something you learned back in one of these jobs.
Finally, a few tips from an experienced temp. Keep in communication with the home office that sent you out into the field. This will help them remember who you are, and can give you a little edge to being the first person they call when a new position opens. Also, avoid the office drama. Every office has it, but you do not want to become ensnared. Corporations will tolerate a lot more from their employees than from the temps, and you do not want to push any boundaries. If you have worked closely with a supervisor, or if you have done special projects for someone, ask if you can use them as a reference. This way you will have something more on your behalf then the standard response they will get from the home office when you interview for your dream job.
Keep a sense of humor. Be brave. Learn flexibility. Smile. Respect the work. You’re going to wow them!