Having hired temporary workers and been one myself for several years, here are some of the lessons I learned, often the hard way.
Keep Home at Home, Work at Work
- Keep personal issues at home
- People really don’t care if you are having a good or bad day. They don’t really care if you are in the middle of a divorce or your 2 year old has a cold. They just want the job done, fast and right.
- Don’t personalize your workspace
- Avoid bringing personal items to work such as photos and knickknacks. If you bring personal items, you have to quickly pack them up when you leave and something is bound to be forgotten or left behind.
- Keep things impersonal
- People enjoy knowing about you, where you are from, where you went to school, and why you are doing this, trying to find a connection. As a temp, you are under pressure to perform, living little time for personal conversations. Plan answers to keep things impersonal while still being professional. If you find something in common, suggest getting together at lunch or after work, and keep your attention on the job.
- Keep opinions and gossip to yourself
- It’s so easy to tell a stranger your life story, describe how bad the drive into work was, or discuss your feelings on abortion or civil rights. You weaken your position when you bring “issues” into the workplace. It can be tough to keep those snappy and witty comments to yourself, but do. No matter how fast they spring to your lips, keep them zipped up.
- Watch what information you give away
- At work and at your leisure, you never know who is sitting next to you or within hearing. It takes a little slip of the lips to say something about the beast you are working for, not knowing the friend you are having lunch with is related to the beast. It’s a small world and you never know when something you say might be damaging.
- Honor their workspace
- When temporarily replacing another worker, don’t mess up their work space. People are nervous about their “space” and feel invaded when they know someone else has been opening their drawers and using their equipment. Keep everything as it is. Cleaning around things is usually appreciated. Put everything back where you found it.
- Bring your own tools and equipment when possible
- Check with each company about the rules of providing your own equipment. If you use specific software, bring it with you and make sure you virus scan everything for your protection and theirs. If you require special tools, bring your own.
- If you bring it, take it home
- If you need special equipment or supplies and you bring them from home, take them home each night with you. You never know when your office will be different the next day, your job will change, or something may happen and access to the workplace may be restricted to you. Whatever you bring, be it personal or professional items, store them in your vehicle or take them home each night.
- Be flexible and adaptable
- Not every office or work space will meet your needs. When possible, ask for a more comfortable chair or whatever you need to get the job done. Learn to make do. A phone book covered with your coat makes a short chair higher. Lift keyboards and monitors higher, bring a back support, and adjust things to make yourself comfortable.
- Be and look professional
- Dress appropriately for the situation, always moving towards overdressing on the first day and then adjusting later. Bring hairbrush, makeup, toothbrush and paste, and other essentials to touch yourself up during the day, if necessary.
- Smile all the time
- Even when your feet are killing you, keep a fresh smile on your face, showing them you like what you do and where you are. Many offices don’t see a smiling face very often and the more you smile, the more they like you and feel relaxed themselves, maybe even smiling back.
- Learn the jargon
- Every job and industry has its own language and terminology. Sometimes terms change from business to business, forcing you to learn what each company calls the same thing. Voice mail is a messaging service. A receptionist may be the corporate greeter. The more you understand the language, the faster you can follow instructions.
- Keep current
- Keep up-to-date on the advancements in your industry and skills. Learn the latest versions of the software and equipment you work with, but keep your skills sharp for older versions. Take classes, do your homework, read the magazines, check the web. Research your field of expertise and keep current so you are ready for whatever the job has to offer.
- You don’t know everything
- While you have been brought in as an expert, and maybe you do know it all, try to keep your attitude humble. Ask for opinions and respect them, listening to the history of what came before and what they expect from this project. Maybe your great new idea was a flop last week. Reveal your knowledge slowly, earning their trust and respect.
- Be prepared to leave a job in minutes
- Sometimes you know when a job ends and sometimes notice comes quickly. Keep your equipment and tools close at hand. Any software you brought, make sure it is easy to remove and/or erase off the computer. Take everything home with you each night as your notice to leave can come without a chance to return to the company.
- Make each company feel like it is the most important company you’ve ever worked for
- Treat people with respect and importance.
- Research the company
- While it may or may not be important to the work you are hired to do, it can help to know something about the company before you begin. It can also help you understand the terminology of the business and how the structure of the company works.
- Know who is who
- Find out as soon as possible who you are to report to, who are the people to get the right information from, and under whose umbrella are you walking. It saves confusion later and establishes a clear foundation.
- Write everything down
- When you are given instructions, write it down. Don’t trust your memory. If you take notes, people believe what they are saying has worth. It makes you look efficient and helps keep you on track through any distractions.
- Get specific instructions
- Don’t read minds. Don’t make assumptions about what they want you to do. Make sure you completely understand the task ahead of you by asking questions and restating your instructions.
- Listen to your orders. Listen to the people around you. The more information you gather about your task and the company, the better you can do your job and meet their needs.
- Do what you are told to do and nothing else
- You are not hired to solve all their problems, just the one you are working on. Doing favors and taking on unassigned tasks can upset things. People have reasons for everything they do and don’t do.
- Don’t share information about another company
- Competition in business is serious business. Just because one company does things one way doesn’t mean it will work for all. If they hear you talk about another company, they realize you could be talking about them on your next job.
- Thank everyone
- Take time to say thank you to everyone around you for what they are doing and for their help. Many people work in “thankless” jobs, doing what has to be done with little reward save a paycheck. Take a moment to pay attention to them and thank them. It helps make the world a better place.
Temporary Employee Responsibilities
As a temporary employee, you often work for a recruiting or temporary assignment company. It is their business to match you to the company, with your personality and skills, and to keep the customer and you happy. They need to know who you are, how you work, and what your capabilities are. They need more than a resume. There are often a battery of tests the worker must pass before eligibility. Who and what you are is just as important to them as what you can do because they have to trust you to walk into their client’s offices looking professional and capable to get the job done efficiently and accurately.
Consider the temporary employment agency your boss. Since they rarely witness you working, only getting feedback from the contracting company, it is your responsibility to keep them up-to-date on how you are doing, what you are doing, what your schedule is like, and how you feel about where you work and what you are doing. To help them, here are some tips.
- Keep your resume up-to-date all the time
- Carry it with you on disk and update it with the new tasks you are learning. Resumes are customizable to specific jobs, so keep a master resume specifying what you do on the various jobs so you have a good resource to cull a resume from. You never know when a recruiter will call asking for a specific skill and you can have the experiential evidence ready.
- Send your updated resume to the recruiter frequently
- Depending upon the duration of the job, and the turnover at your recruiter’s office, you can lose touch with your job recruiter. Make sure they remember who you are and what you are capable of.
- Remember your recruiter
- Some job recruiters work with 20 – 50 people every day. They tend to lose track of who is who and what they can do. Besides sending your resume, do small things like sending a thank you card, send flowers, visit the office, do little things to keep them interested and enthused about you. The more visible you are, the better your job opportunities.
- Thank your recruiter
- If you love the job you are in, don’t forget to let your recruiter know they did good with a thank you call or note card. By letting them know which jobs make you happy, they are more likely to continue to place you in the appropriate positions.
- Work with more than one agency
- If you need a steady flow of income, find representation with more than one agency to keep the work opportunities coming in. When you are committed to a job lasting more than a week, contact the agencies to let them know you will be unavailable for that time period and when you will be ready for another position.