In a job market that's as competitive as this one is, temping can be your salvation. It can help you keep money rolling in while you look for a more permanent position. Besides, your temp job can even turn into a permanent position. Consider these tips for turning your interim employment stint into something you can count on over the long haul.
1Focus your temping efforts. Visit the Web site of the American Staffing Association (www.americanstaffing.net) and click on the "Job Seekers" link for guidance about how to temp in your field. About 90 percent of large businesses rely on temporary-help services, so the possibilities may be greater than you realize.
2Recognize a temp job as the opportunity that it is. In essence, it's an audition — both for you and for the employer. The challenge for you is that you have to stay "on" at all times. Do whatever it takes to stay positive, enthusiastic and upbeat about the work at hand. On the flip side, if you can tell that you really don't like working there, you don't have to stay.
3Spell out what you want. If you want your temp job to turn into a permanent position, let your staffing agency and the employer know. Also make sure that the employer and the staffing agency know about your complete skill set. Offer to help out with different assignments that will allow you to shine without coming across as too pushy.
4Take time to understand the company. You'll be more valuable to the employer in the long term if you learn as much as you can about its industry, competitors, products and services. It's also wise to stay alert to the employer's most urgent staffing needs. If you spot a need, think about ways that you can step up and fill it.
5Plug into the company's culture and vibe. Every workplace is different, and it's important to understand each organization's quirks, priorities, values (both written and unwritten) and methods for getting work accomplished.
6Do more than expected. Many workers can meet an employer's expectations. Stand-out workers exceed those expectations. If you enjoy working for this employer, volunteer for additional assignments, even if they seem outside your temp role; consistently demonstrate a crazy-strong work ethic; show up a little bit early in the morning, and stay a tiny bit late at the end of the day if at all possible; and always — always! — be dependable.
7Make friends and build allies. You'll stand a much better chance of sticking around if many of the workers around you like having you around. Don't let your temporary status stop you from acting like a true team member. Make an effort to get to know the people at work, and offer to help them out in various ways.
8Lose the "lowly temp" mentality. Temping may not appeal to you because of status issues. In short, you may feel a bit like a second-class citizen. Simply don't allow yourself to feel or act this way. Act as though you're a permanent player at the company, and don't hold back when it comes to quality or dependability because of your temporary status.
9Dress for the job you want. Don't let yourself dress too casually because you're not quite part of the team. Instead, carry yourself as a professional when it comes to dress and grooming. Show that you're a serious candidate for a permanent job and that you care about making a good impression.
10Create opportunities for yourself. If you keep encountering employers who say they aren't hiring, ask whether you can simply handle a project for them on a temporary basis. They may be grateful for the offer, and you may score a temporary job for yourself without the help of a staffing agency.
Laura T. Coffey can be reached at email@example.com.
Sources: Quintessential Careers (www.quintcareers.com); American Staffing Association (www.americanstaffing.net); SnagAJob.com (www.snagajob.com)