Work Life: five tips for short-term temps

2016-oct-glasses

Short-term Temping is a great way to try out new roles and industries, and also a great way to broaden your experience if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while or are in between jobs. Here’s five tips to make a short-term role pay great long-term dividends!

  1. Handover. Your goal is to ‘get on board’ as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Researching a role prior to starting is always a great idea, but beware – it can only take you so far. A handover is essential, and ideally should progress from the general/broad to the detailed. A clear brief, outlining the main tasks you are expected to cover, is essential. You will need to know exactly what you will be responsible for, with any urgent/outstanding work and deadlines flagged. Also make sure that you find out who the best person is to contact for assistance if you need it. It’s also a good idea to ask for a ‘desk map’ outlining desks/names/titles of people in your team and/or surrounding area, so that you are immediately familiar with the people you will be working with. Important passwords and phone extensions should also be on hand, and these should include important contacts such as Human Resources and the IT Helpdesk. If you are a regular short-term Temp, a good idea is to work on establishing a checklist of your own, that you can take along to assignments to ensure that all relevant information is included in your handover – and if not, it will prompt you to ask for it. Even if you are provided with a set of handover notes, it’s still worthwhile to take your own notes as the handover progresses. The act of writing things down will actually help your brain to assimilate the information, and your own notes will also be an easier reference for you than someone else’s. Finally, remember to take an active learning role where you can. For example, if you are having a new system explained to you, such as database system you haven’t used before, actually try a run through yourself while the other person is there (instead of just sitting through an explanation). This will provide you with a much more valuable learning experience.
  2. Culture. ‘Fitting in’ is another way to get on board as smoothly and as quickly as possible. What to wear? Ideally, your agency or the HR Manager will have briefed you beforehand, but if you are unsure, remember, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. On your first day, pay attention to what others are wearing and adjust your wardrobe accordingly. Don’t forget also, to find out if there are any ‘casual days’ while you will be there. Some other things to ask prior, or note quietly on your first day, centre on how the office is run. What are the office protocols? Is there an open door policy? Or are appointments needed? What are the preferred channels of communication? Email? Phone? In-person? Is the office environment noisy or quiet? Do office staff work hard/play hard, or just comfortably plod along? Is the atmosphere formal or informal? Find out and take note. Always be polite and sociable, but don’t go over the top. Polite conversation is acceptable, a twenty minute gossip session is not! And finally, if your schedule allows, it’s always a good idea to attend any gatherings/get togethers if within office hours.
  3. Time Management. Because you will only be in the role for a short time, it’s crucial for you to manage your time wisely and efficiently in order to leave a positive impression. Always make sure you are clear of what’s expected of you in terms of what you are being asked to do, and when it needs to be completed. Utilise the calendar and task lists in Outlook to schedule your time, and don’t forget to factor in a buffer to accommodate any last minute urgent additions or changes. Use down time to complete any upcoming work, or brush up on relevant skills. Offer assistance if others in your team are struggling with overflow, and it’s within your capacity to help. If you find yourself in a position where you are given more work than you can reasonably complete in time – communication is key. Ask for help if you need it.
  4. Take Time To Shine! ‘Shining’ in a temp role – particularly a short-term temp role – is a slightly different ball game to being in a regular, long-term, permanent job. Yes, it goes without saying to always do your best work, and to go above and beyond the call of duty where you can. Pre-empt and add value, but remember – you are not there to implement a long term career strategy, you are there for the short-term to fill a gap, be that taking on someone else’s role while they are sick or on annual leave, or covering an employment gap until a permanent replacement is found. Either way, this means you are not in the role to re-invent the wheel or change the way things are done – you are there to keep things running smoothly, as they were, and as they will continue to be once your assignment is finished. So always make sure you follow already established protocol and set standards. It is within these already established guidelines that you want to shine and make a great impression.
  5. Handback. So you’ve done a great job and made a fantastic impression, and now it’s time to hand back the role to the returning (or next) person. Just as it was when you started, your goal should once again be focussed on allowing the person to get on board as quickly and smoothly as possible. In essence, your handback should include a briefing of work completed, and any outstanding issues that need to be picked up on the next person’s return. Make note of any changes or out of the ordinary issues that arose. While it’s tempting to see the handback document as something to prepare at the end of your time in the role, it’s actually more beneficial to create it as an ongoing document – one that begins as you begin your work in the role, and add to, over the life of your assignment. That way, you won’t struggle to remember details, or worse, leave out important issues. Make sure you flag any issues as they arise and note any pending or unfinished work, as well as any messages, or directions to files you might have referenced, or people you may have contacted. And lastly but not leastly, don’t forget to thank the person for their original handover and welcome them (or welcome them back) to the role!

Cheers!
Linda Memphis

© 2016 Linda Memphis

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Great thorough article. I probably should’ve temped earlier in life!! 👌🏼

  2. What a good idea. It would never have occurred to me, but what a great way to test if you’ll be a good fit for a job. I will definitely suggest to my sister, she isn’t sure what she wants to do so feels stuck, I bet this would help.

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