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Commercial Education Society of Australia

My Life as a Temp
or Surviving in the Full-time Employment Age—Belinda

This is my story. I have been temping for years. After being ‘deployed’, ‘redundant’, ‘put off’—whatever the word, after a company restructure eight years ago, I lost my job. I thought that temping would be a temporary measure until another full-time, ‘forever’ job came along. Well, it didn’t.

You can do temping two ways—either through your own efforts, or registering with an employment agency. The upside of temping is that you meet a lot more people, you are exposed to a lot more cultures, you learn to meet challenges, and you improve your ability to get along and handle all kinds of people.

One of the biggest pluses is no office politics. It beats hiking from job interview to job interview. The company needs help and your skills are the selling point. You are actually interviewing the company. This differentiates you from the masses of resumes that companies receive constantly. You get a pretty good idea of whether you would like to work there if you were offered a full-time job. The company gets a pretty good idea whether they would hire you full time or as a temp again. It works both ways. Work never gets boring, nor do the people.

The upside of temping is that you meet a lot more people you are exposed to a lot more cultures, you learn to meet challenges, and you improve your ability to get along and handle all kinds of people.

When your work is finished for the day and you still have time before you go home, this is ideal for updating your skills. The new version of MYOB? Word? Access? You become adept at using a range of computers and programs.

And the pay! If you are working for an agency, you get paid all the time. If the agency sends you for a job and the company decides they don’t like you, they don’t need a temp, the job can be taken up with other staff, you still get paid. The agency is required by law to pay you for the hours you have worked. If you have been hired directly by the company and there is a dispute on the amount of work, or type of work, it may take months to get reimbursed from the company.

There are all kinds of temps. There are people like me who have made it a full-time occupation; there are people who can, or want to, work certain days—for example, carers, those who have other responsibilities, or those who do volunteer work. Whatever the reason, they can be accommodated. You can take holidays when you want by simply telling the agency that you are not available for a certain time, then contacting them again when you are ready to work.

Depending on your skills, there are different kinds of temps. Do you think that you would fit into any of these?

Many of these jobs offer evening shifts which pay more.

What kind of skills do you need to be successful? First and most importantly, you need to be able to type, to have accurate keyboarding skills between 40 to 60 wam. All temping agencies will give you a test and work out the type of jobs that you are suited for.

First and most importantly, you need to be able to type, to have accurate keyboarding skills between 40 to 60 wam.

Language—you need clear English language pronunciation, a reasonable level of vocabulary and a reasonable understanding of the language used by clients/customers whose first language is not English. Make use of the tools on your computer—thesaurus, dictionary, spelling and grammar check, hyphenation and citations.

Computer literate—software keeps changing and updating. New versions are forever being developed. If you are competent, you will find that you will be able to get through the work that is set out for you. Why not take this time to familiarise yourself with the new software version and practise. It beats paying a tutor or spending your own time working out how to use a new function. Chances are that some of your co-workers have the manual or tutorial already, or they can answer your questions if you get stuck.

Phone systems—it’s always useful to familiarise yourself with the different kinds of phone systems. Be sure you look at the menu. All companies have a list of senior people and numbers that connect to them. They would also expect you to screen calls before putting them through.

Invest in your own business cards. If you want to make temping a full time job then approach it as your own business. Remember that the work does not fall into your lap. You have to seriously go out and make it happen. Develop a good strong relationship with your temping agency. Give them feedback after each temping job. Be positive about the kind of work you do. You are ultimately your own boss. You go to different locations, meet different people, use a range of skills, get to develop new skills and get paid after each job without argument or having to re-negotiate. You also establish a repertoire of clients who specifically insist on you being their temp. Temping also gives you the opportunity to expand your resume and improve and enhance your skills.

Temping also gives you the opportunity of being offered a permanent job. You have to decide then if you want to give up the flexibility of temping and its positives and negatives for a fixed day-to-day location, people and work.


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