Temp Agencies: Good Idea or a Career Buster?

You lost your job. You cried. You panicked. You checked your bank account a gazillion times. You added up all your bills and looked for ways and places to make cuts. You stayed up late nights, drinking, bitching and crying some more. You called your friends and asked if they knew anyone who had an opening. You emailed people you haven’t talked to in years. You sent numerous resumes. You filled out endless job applications.

Then your first unemployment check arrived. You almost had a heart attack and considered panhandling. You bought ramen noodles and filled one third of your gas tank. You still had hope that you might need to go to an interview.

Weeks passed but nothing happened.

Now what? Desperate, hungry and depressed, you started thinking about working with temp agencies. But then, somewhat vaguely, you remembered all these temps you saw in the office you used to work. A long time ago. You remembered how overworked those temps looked, and how underpaid they felt.

However, you realize that desperate situations require desperate measures, and so you ask yourself a question: is a temp agency for you?

I, personally, like to be short and to the point. Instead of writing a long and windy post about temp agencies, I am going to list the most important points that anyone should take into account when considering temp agencies.

Pros of Working with a Temp Agency:

  • You build a different network. Networking is always good, especially when it is more diverse.
  • You widen your professional exposure. Make sure not to be shy and put your skills out there.
  • You develop new skills. You might be surprised what you can learn while working as a temp.
  • You might get hired into a permanent position if you perform well. It is not given, but it is very possible.
  • Your pay might be better than expected. I know temps who were making about 50K a year. Yes, by temping.  The formula is simple: the more you make, the more a temp agency makes.
  • You maintain a somewhat flexible schedule that lets you look for a job you really want.

Cons of Working with a Temp Agency:

  • Not all temp agencies are respectable. Do your due diligence before signing anything. Please don’t rush to sign any papers. Read them! Carefully.
  • You might end up being that overworked and underpaid temp you had in your office.
  • Most temp agencies will require a two week notice. However, in at-will states, you don’t have to give it.
  • Some agencies are not very considerate and may want to fill in a position that they know would not be a good fit for you.
  • Some agencies might try to talk you into a less paying job just to make money off you. Beware, and know what you are worth.
  • Income is unstable (but it is still income.) Temp jobs might not last for a long time.
  • Reporting to both your staffing agency and your manager might be cumbersome.
  • No benefits. Don’t get sick!

Two Temps, Two Outcomes

I employed two temps in the past few years. One temp worked for two days, one hour and thirty minutes (roughly) before I lost my sanity and pointed her out the door.

I fired her because she:

  • Showed up late and left early. Every. Single. Day.
  • Argued with me when I tried to tell her how I want things to be done. Who the hell she thought was in charge here?!
  • Did a sloppy job and did not bother to correct her mistakes. Or apologize for them.
  • Had a smoke break every thirty minutes.
  • Took a two hour lunch.
  • Did not seem to work. Period.

Our second temp is still with us. It’s been a few years now. The things she did right (besides the obvious stuff):

  • Came the day before her first day in the office to meet me, introduce herself, and to find out about our parking. Planning ahead always wins me over.
  • If she had changes in her schedule, she always informed me about it in advance.
  • She was never afraid to recognize her mistakes.
  • She was willing to learn more and help us out even with the most tedious tasks.
  • She had an attitude “I am here to stay.” And she did stay.

The Final Thought

If you decide to go with a temp agency, make sure to do it right and sign up with a few agencies instead of just one. You will get more options, more work offers, and you will get to know more people. So to answer this title’s questions: no, temp agencies are not a career buster. In fact, they can be a life saver for some, and a career booster for others.

Want me to discuss any specific topic? Have a question? Got a situation and need advice? Feel free to email me anonymously (or not.)

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