Getting temp work
July 18, 2005 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Why can't I get temp work?

I've been through most of the temping threads that have been on AskMe previously, which led me to believe that I would set up appointments with temp agencies, take typing and MS Office tests, and go from there. However, of the maybe two dozen agencies I've contacted over the past several weeks, all except one have asked me to send a resumé, not allowed me to set an appointment, and not called me back. (The agency which did allow me to make an appointment had an automated system for doing so on its website.) This is, incidentally, in Chicago.

I've spent the past 4+ years working in offices (at a local non-profit and an academic library) and I'm not picky about assignments. What am I doing wrong?
posted by IshmaelGraves to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My sister, a new college grad, is having the same problem, also in Chicago. She has been able to get her foot in the door at a few agencies and one has found her a couple weeks' worth of work.

She was told by one agency that the summers are usually very dead, with a lot of college students looking for work, and that things would start picking up in August. I'm guessing that unemployment is also an issue; there are probably a lot of people fighting for crumbs.

I temped in Chicago about 10 years ago and it took a couple months before I started getting regular work. That said, I've been very surprised at how difficult it is to get an interview with the big firms, like Manpower. She has had no luck at all trying to register with the city's biggest firms. That wasn't an issue when I temped.

Feel free to e-mail me. (It's in my profile.) Perhaps you two can trade notes. I know she signed up with one agency that she thought was just nuts but they are finding her work. Perhaps she can recommend you to them, if you're interested.

Hopefully things will loosen up by the end of summer.
posted by Sully6 at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2005

I think Sully6 is right about the summer. I had very little trouble getting temp work in Chicago in January. If you do get an interview, make sure you call the agency every week to give them an update. Usually, it pulls your name to the top of their list when they immediately need someone. Try City Staffing, they got me work. As well, check out local universities, they have temp pools and contract jobs.
posted by rabbitsnake at 3:32 PM on July 18, 2005

I moved to Vancouver a few months ago and immediately applied to all of the temp agencies. I also am only on the book at one agency, and I've gotten twelve hours of work out of them. I've got nearly ten years experience in an office setting, am certified with a number of applications, type nearly 90 wpm, have hardware support and programming experience, two bachelors degrees....

I've told them that I'l do anything, including frickin' data entry. I'll work any shift.

Basically, I'm a generalist. I can do anything. I've had twelve hours of work since April. It's maddening.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:40 PM on July 18, 2005

I've been working with temp agencies all summer, mostly with Kelly Services, and I have had no trouble getting jobs at all. I've worked three so far in the last two months (all three times I quit myself, and the jobs are still continuing) and I was placed all three times within three days. I usually call and schedule and appointment, then come in with resume in hand.
posted by cyphill at 4:44 PM on July 18, 2005

Best answer: Nobody wants to see you until they've confirmed that you have the specific experience that their clients are looking for. This is why they want to see resumes first.

I'm guessing that your resume doesn't properly emphasize that you have these skills or that you are interested in that type of work, so you're not getting invited in. This is because it wastes their time and your time to go through that whole process if there isn't going to be a positive result that comes out if it.

By the way, I'm not sure, but I probably created that automated system of that one agency, and I still work for them. How are they working out for you? If you want me to take a look at your resume or try to help smooth things for you, let me know. My e-mail is not in my profile, but send it to "will" at the domain that is in my profile, and I'll be on the lookout for it.
posted by willnot at 4:58 PM on July 18, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the comments. It's good to know I'm not the only one for whom things aren't working as smoothly as might be hoped.

Cyphill, I hadn't tried Kelly based on a comment in a past thread here but that sounds encouraging and I'll certainly call them tomorrow.

willnot, indeed you did (and a very convenient system it is, too). I've e-mailed you.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2005

My experience was this - I really did want temporary work - just for the summer. Admitting when I was available and when I had to go back to my school job killed any chance of me getting any temp work at all, unfortunately. Summertime is a tough time for folks on a 10-month pay schedule! If you're one of us, IG, I suggest you don't tell them that you aren't available after a certain date.... And good luck job-hunting!
posted by Lynsey at 7:11 PM on July 18, 2005

Oh, I don't really like Kelly, the people there seem like they hate their jobs and they hate you, but they've always been prompt getting me the checks and they have always placed me in a position immediately. Oh, I really don't recommend what Lynsey said about not telling your employer your only seasonal. I'm doing that right now with a position, I just started I have to leave in month, and training takes two weeks. I'm afraid this is going to get me a bad reference, and really, you should prefer no reference to a bad reference.
posted by cyphill at 8:03 PM on July 18, 2005

Being "not picky" I've found really doesn't help with temp agencies, I guess they just want to put everyone in a very specific box as soon as possible. After graduating high school/while in college/just after graduating college I tried to put in applications with those places a few times and they seemed very annoyed that I wasn't specific at all: especially when I first graduated high I figured I had the skills to do office work, but if they had some easy factory work, I thought, I could do that too. This was totally unacceptable to them
posted by dagnyscott at 9:22 PM on July 18, 2005

Bah. Correction to above: should have typed first graduated high school, not first graduated high, despite the reputation that school has obtained lately.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:24 PM on July 18, 2005

I've temped on and off in NYC for 15+ years. I've found, despite what you read about temp workers becoming more prevalent, in NYC it's likely the opposite. The last time I temped, 2000-2001, I lost my position twice because the temp pool was downsized. I worked in "word processing centers" at large financial services companies -- the single biggest market for temps in NYC. Large law firms are another big market.

I attribute the tightening of the temping market to one major factor. Back in the 1980s and early 90s, executives didn't know how to use PCs. They were totally clueless. If you could use MS Word, they thought you were a miracleworker. PowerPoint -- you're a genius! I'm not kidding. Back then, full-time secretaries answered phones, wrote memos, organized expenses, etc. Temps filled in for secretaries when they went on vacation or maternity leave. Or they did projects that secretaries couldn't do. Secretaries, for the most part, are now history. Executives answer their own phones, do their own email, word processing, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. In response, since the mid-to-late 1990s, temp agencies have moved into more lucrative, specialized areas. The demand for temps continued, but, for the most part, only those with very specialized and expert skills. Banks, like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, etc. created word processing centers that would create Word and PowerPoint documents that conformed to very, very strict stylistic parameters, sometimes using custom macros. Then what I began to see in 2000-2001 was that the young bankers were doing everything themselves. No need for temps. The temps that survived had higher level skills -- Photoshop, Illustrator, mapping software. Sometimes they were used to train bankers, thus making themselves obsolete. I can't report on the legal temp world as I've never worked there. But it's likely the same story.

So, lesson is, acquire specialized skills.
posted by timnyc at 10:55 AM on July 19, 2005 [2 favorites]

I don't know what the situation is like in Chicago, but I've worked through temp agencies in Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Washington and Oregon. Lately, temp jobs are insanely hard to come by. Since a couple of years ago, I found that I had to call the agencies every day or every couple of days, instead of weekly (as suggested by someone up-thread). They simply hear from so many people that it's like winning the lottery to get work. Call every few days, and if it's slow, chat with them so they think about you first when an assignment comes in.
posted by digitalis at 11:55 PM on July 19, 2005

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