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Tips for Temps

Robert Half International

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If you've been thinking about temporary or contract work while you sort out your career choices or gain experience, you're certainly not alone. An increasing number of professionals are choosing project work, and there are numerous opportunities available. In fact, a recent survey of executives by Robert Half International shows that two-thirds (66 percent) of companies are using as many or more temporary professionals today versus five years ago.

It's not hard to see why job seekers are attracted to this arrangement. Temporary professionals are often able to arrange their work schedules so they can effectively balance professional and personal priorities, and many -- especially those with hard-to-find skill sets -- earn more than their full-time counterparts.

But success in the role requires more than just responding to the first "temporary help wanted" sign you see. Here are some tips for getting the most out of interim work:

Find the right staffing service
If you decide that becoming a temporary professional is the right choice for you, how do you get started? First, find the right staffing firm. Many staffing services have Web sites that describe the level of service they provide as well as the types of companies and industries they focus on.

Your best bet is to identify a staffing firm that specializes in the field in which you have experience or interest. For example, if you're an accountant, you want a staffing firm that specializes in placing accounting and finance professionals. These firms typically have the knowledge to understand your needs and the contacts to find you the job you're looking for.

It's also wise to check with friends or family members who have worked with staffing firms in the past for recommendations. And call a handful of staffing firms in your area to ask the following questions:

  • How long have you been in business?

  • What is the market for someone with my skills?

  • How many openings do you currently have for the position I seek?

  • What makes your firm superior to others?


  • Also, pay attention to the details, like how promptly your inquiry is addressed and how you are treated over the phone. If your skills are a match for the types of jobs the staffing firm has available, you will be asked to schedule an interview with a representative from the firm. Bring a copy of your current resume as well as a list of references to the meeting.

    Understand your responsibilities
    Once you're offered an interim position, not only should you review the basic job duties and objectives with your staffing manager but also clarify all aspects of the job with your on-site supervisor upon your arrival. You'll avoid misunderstandings and be more productive if you seek clarification up front. The more you can do to obtain a big-picture view of your assignment, the better you'll be able to perform.

    Ask for help and request feedback
    Employers expect interim professionals to hit the ground running, but don't be afraid to ask for specific information that may be necessary for you to do the best job. This may include, for example, instruction on proprietary systems, unique business practices or customized features of a software application.

    Throughout the assignment, seek feedback on your performance from your supervisors and those with whom you work closely. Requesting feedback and remaining open to guidance and constructive criticism will enable you to be more effective.

    Take temporary assignments seriously
    The biggest mistake interim workers can make is being shortsighted. While the position may be temporary, the impression you make is not. Remember that even brief assignments can offer many professional benefits, including opportunities to make valuable industry contacts and enhance your skills. Give your all from the first to the last day you're on the job.

    Some temporary assignments will be more enjoyable and challenging than others. Nonetheless, bring the same level of energy, enthusiasm and professionalism to each job. In a recent survey by Robert Half International, 87 percent of executives said it is valuable to hire someone on a temporary basis as a means of evaluating him or her for a full-time position. The more professionally you approach a temporary assignment and the greater value you add to the project, the more likely managers will be to comment favorably on your performance to your staffing firm or even make you an offer for a full-time role.

    Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.

    Last Updated: 22/02/2008 - 1:54 PM


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