Temperament is key to happiness as full-time 'temp'

WORKING WOMAN

April 03, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

In today's lean, mean economic climate, more and more companies are hiring temporary workers as part of their standard work force, in large part because they don't have to pay benefits or unemployment insurance to these workers, or lay off or "carry" them when business is slack.

Jumping from job to job with none of the usual safety nets we've come to expect from permanent employment is a daunting prospect, but to someone with energy and a positive attitude, temporary employment can be richly rewarding.

In her new book "Temp -- How to Survive and Thrive in the World of Temporary Employment" (Shambhala, $9), Deborahann Smith offers a guide to "temping" as a way to get on someone's payroll quickly and gain financial security and freedom.

If you've been laid off and haven't found a job with permanence (not to mention benefits), temporary work might be for you. But if you're not sure if this is the right path to take, Ms. Smith suggests you ask yourself if you would describe yourself as:

* Having a positive outlook on life?

* Flexible? Assertive? Independent? A go-getter?

* Self-disciplined, with a strong self-image?

* Having a sense of humor, including the ability to laugh at yourself?

* In good physical health, with the ability to learn things quickly?

* Able to live on a shoestring if necessary?

* Willing to set emotional boundaries for yourself and others? Willing to take instructions and to ask questions?

* People-oriented? Adventurous about new situations and people?

If this list is a catalog of your best points, then full-time temporary work will very likely suit you.

Your next step is to market yourself, writes Ms. Smith. Make a realistic list of your experience and skills, then list jobs you can do or can quickly learn to do. Work up a complete, attractive, honest resume, and send copies to every business and social contact you have.

Next learn the names of the personnel directors of all the major companies in your area (just call their switchboards and ask), and send copies of your resume plus a cover letter to them, as well.

Then dig into classified ads, register with temporary employment agencies, attend job fairs, and always, always keep spreading the word that you're available for temporary work -- word of mouth is the most valuable tool you have at your disposal.

Make sure you can be reached easily by phone or mail. If you don't have a phone or fixed address, rent a post-office box or ask a friend to take messages for you.

Be persistent. Check back frequently with any previous employer, with any company you'd like to work for, and with large employers whose personnel offices are swamped with applicants.

When you're on a job, never miss the chance to be as pleasant, efficient, helpful, businesslike and personable as possible, especially to the people who count most to your employer -- his or her clients or customers.

Never miss a chance to improve your skills, either, advises Ms. Smith. People who can reliably work a receptionist's desk, telephone bank or computer are always in demand, and anyone who can operate and trouble-shoot office or industrial equipment is highly employable.

If you need more training, get it -- even if you have to scrape by while you go back to school -- and be sure to update your resume regularly to include new skills or experience.

Finally, don't let one job end without another in sight, and always ask for references before you're about to pack up and move on. Since these are vital to your success, you'll want your temporary boss to have plenty of time to write a glowing report!

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