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>>Can you sign up with any temp agencies

Actually the last time I was unemployed I went that route. I never got a call back from any of them. Despite my calling them and leaving messages.

I started this in response to Lady Ianna's post, but I figured I'd start a new thread with it, because it might be useful to anybody else looking for work.

I have very successfully done "temp" work, and four times it led to me being offered a permanent job. It's a great way to learn to new skills, meet new people or earn the needed income to keep yourself out of the poorhouse. I recommend doing it if any one of these things is something you need to do, even if it doesn't lead to the others. (For example, I've done temp work full time, even though it meant I lost my unemployment status for the week and actually wound up costing me $20 a week, since my temp way was less than my old pay, but found it worth it when, a few weeks later, I had an offer for a long-term job that I could live on.)

The way the temp agencies work (at least all three of the ones I've done work for) is that they have you come in and fill out paperwork and interview and take tests and all that junk. Anybody who wants to can do this. This gets you in "the system".

But just filling out the paperwork is not enough. They also keep a list of who has called in and when. It's not a FIFO (first come, first served) system, as people often seem to believe, it's more of a LIFO (squeaky wheel gets the oil) system. That means that what you have to do is call, and call lots. Call when they're open, so you get to talk to a person. My experience has been that it's best to find one friendly/helpful/kind person and ask to talk with him/her when you call every time, and if he/she is not available, ask if there someone else that can help you.

So, say you go in for the battery of tests on Monday morning. Tuesday morning about 7:30, get up and call them, tell them you're available and ask if they have any work for you. If they say "no", ask if they've finished processing your application. Ask if there's anything else you can do to improve your chances of getting work. My experience has been that (unlike when you're doing a "real" job search) they are usually quite honest about this kind of thing, including telling you if you have gotten a bad reference or the like, and what you might do to improve your image.

Ask how often you should call. If they say "every day", then call every day, even if you feel foolish about it. (In big cities, you should call every day; if you live in a small town, every day might be overkill.) If you actually call every day, they'll get to know you pretty quickly, so it can be a short, "hi, this is Jan, just calling to see if you've got anything for me for tomorrow" kind of call. The trick is to keep your profile in the front of the agent's mind. If you're nice and personable, they'll try harder for you. Desperate doesn't hurt either. :)

Once you get one job, don't forget to keep calling. I made it a point to start calling 2-3 days before my current assignment was ending to let the temp folks know when I'd be available again. I'd call late in the afternoon usually, especially on the last day of the job. A lot of times this eliminated the gap between jobs, which can be painful financially.

If you find you're not getting any work, make another visit to the office. Ask if there are any training programs you can take, or if you didn't do as well as you'd like on one of the tests, ask if you can take it again. Usually they will let you. And, again, it gives you face time with the agency, which puts you at the head of the list, and also shows that you're really serious about getting some work that way.

When you're working, don't be surprised if the work is boring. (I once spend six weeks, 40 hours a week, pulling staples, photocopying one tax form, and restapling the files for a Shearson Lehman Hutton audit.) Be very proactive about finding work. If you're not doing anything, or if you're doing something that could easily incorporate another job (such as answering not-very-busy phones), ask if you can do something else. Don't be afraid to tell them about skills you have that they are not using (I've been hired to answer phones and wound up doing typing or light bookkeeping as well). Again, you'll make a good impression, possibly learn something new and keep yourself busy.

I hope this is of some help. Good luck to you, Lady Ianna, and anybody else who's considering using a temp agency as a stopgap measure or as a ticket to "real" employment.

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