I always arrive early because you never know how long it will take you to get where you are going. Today, for instance, my temp counselor gave me the wrong floor I was on several floors before I found anyone who could help me. If you are assigned to a big company and you don’t know where to go, ask for personnel or human resources... this is usually a good starting point. Anyway, personnel sent me to an entirely different building a few blocks away! Once I got there, I had even more trouble.
They weren't sure where I was to report until I told them what I knew about the assignment. This whole thing took over thirty-five minutes. In a large company, a simple procedure like hiring a temp can get very confusing; but don’t let it throw you.
Webster’s, by the way, was a savvy temp. She got the names of the people she spoke with along the way (in case her excuse needed verification), and she apologized to the person she was reporting to and explained the delay. At the first available moment, she called her temp service to tell it what happened. It is best for you to keep your service informed of any problems so that it will not be surprised by a disgruntled client calling before you do.
Once you reach your destination, introduce yourself to those around you. Explain that you are a temp from XYZ Service and smile. Usually, one person will be assigned to show you what work is to be done and how to operate any special equipment. Beware. Some temps have told us that you shouldn't expect miracles that you may find yourself in a sink-or-swim situation. We tell you this not to scare you but to prepare you. Be resourceful and don't panic. And if you don't know something, ask. Bring your own pad with you and take notes. Unfortunately, if you are temporarily replacing someone else, much of the information you will need in order to do the job properly is in the head of the regular person (to whom you rarely have access). So, be a problem-solver. Look for information in reasonable places, such as files, desk drawers, and storage cabinets near you. If you ask coworkers for information, write down their response so you won't have to ask a second or third time.
Some coworkers will welcome a temp; others will ignore you; and still others will go out of their way to be rude to you. A temp shoulders the blame or the blessing for all the temps who have gone before him or her. If their last encounter was a positive experience, they are likely to be receptive. If not, we think you can guess. Just be yourself and get the work done. Remember that sooner or later the assignment will end.
Temps report that it is common to find either too much work for them to complete or not enough work to keep them busy. If you are sure that the workload is unreasonably heavy, let your service know it may attempt to market another temp to the client. If you are enjoying your work, too much work can be a good thing, because it can turn a one-day assignment into a one-week assignment or longer. Too little work means you will have to look busy or ask for more work to do. A temp in Phoenix tells us:
I've sat at a desk where the phone never rang. I had a boss who gave me two letters to type the entire day... I never saw him. My requests for more work were ignored... I ended up reading a book. They really didn’t need a temp... I can’t believe they even needed a full-time person in that position. I was getting paid eight dollars an hour to be some one's secretary in name only... I guess it was a status thing.
One widespread complaint from temps about their life-styles is the inability to see a project through to completion. "I reorganized a firm's entire filing system, but I don't know if they are following it," says Gail Scheurman, a temp industry veteran. "If you like continuity, don't temp... It's like reading a mystery halfway through and never learning who the murderer is."
If you are on an assignment that has gone well, or if you have received a compliment on your job performance, ask the client to tell your temp service. Waiting passively for positive feedback won't make your temp service notice you. You want to build some credibility with your service in order to ensure that it will be responsive to your needs. Many services either send performance reports or make follow-up calls to a client to see how well you did.
Encourage your supervisors to cooperate by completing the form or taking the call. Even better, if things have gone really well, ask them to write a letter to your service (be sure you get a copy). Not only will your service love what is being said about you but it makes a nice client testimonial for them, and they are likely to show it off. Positive feedback will help you increase your pay check and get the choicest assignments the service has to offer. We met one temp who was her firms "client-clincher" temp. Whenever they broke into a new account, she was the temp they sent to represent them. As she described it:
I enjoy helping to sell the service, and they have rewarded me with bonuses and top rates... Sometimes I even go on assignments where I don’t use all of my skills... but they still pay me a high rate because they know I know how to make a client love me.
Use the form to keep track of your assignments from varied services. We suggest that you monitor your temp activity so that you can easily remember which assignments you favored and where they originated from.