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What students can gain from a temp job or summer job

Top tips for temping

Approached in the right way, temping provides students with good CV fodder and can improve your graduate career prospects too.
Perform well and you're likely to be given better assignments.

If you're planning to do temp jobs this vacation, take a look at our tips to make sure you get the most out of your experience.

Register early for temping work

Temporary agencies have a limited number of spaces and these will often be filled at the start of a vacation when students return home eager for temp work over the holiday. If you want to temp over the summer, for example, register your interest early – or get ahead of the game by joining an agency (and earning some cash) in the Easter or Christmas vacations.

Expect to start at the bottom

Agencies often like to try out new temps with a short assignment (one or two days) to find out what they’re like in person. Perform well and you’re likely to be given better assignments in terms of length, variety of work, and hourly rates.

Make a good impression

Treat a new assignment like a new job: arrive a few minutes early, be appropriately dressed and enthusiastic. Don’t spend all your time scrolling through your phone or messaging friends; it will make it look as if you don’t have enough to do.

Find out what you’re doing

Before you accept an assignment, find out what you’ll be doing and make sure you’ll be happy doing it. Once you’re there, if you don’t understand what you’re being asked to do, ask for guidance. The momentary embarrassment of admitting you don’t understand is far better than having to explain why you did something wrong and then redoing it all.

Ask for more

It’s tempting to sit and browse online or read a book when you run out of things to do. However, if you volunteer for additional work, you might get to do something interesting or at least learn some new skills that you can add to your CV. Enthusiasm pays dividends: your temporary boss will send positive feedback when the agency asks about you and might even ask you to stay longer.

Find something relevant

Temporary agencies usually provide staff to a huge range of organisations. If you’re hoping to get into a particular career area, let the agency know and they might be able to find a placement in your chosen field. Once you get there, let them know that you’re keen to work in the sector and ask your colleagues about their jobs to find out what the work involves. You might also be able to arrange some short unpaid work experience once your temporary placement is over.

Keep track of your work experience

When you’ve spent a whole summer doing short placements, it’s easy to lose track of what you’ve done. Make a note of your various assignments and the tasks you did. Think about the skills you developed – everyday office tasks may improve your computer literacy, while working on reception may enhance your communication skills. Add the skills to your CV afterwards, and highlight any time you spent at relevant organisations.

Prepare a 10-second biography

‘So what do you really want to do?’ This is one of the most common questions temps are asked, so prepare a short answer – and a longer one if someone seems interested. They might be able to give advice or put you in touch with someone who works in that field. It’s often worth keeping a CV to hand as well, to pass on to potentially useful contacts.

Remember why you’re doing it

You might be temping to earn some cash for your studies or to pay for a holiday, to gain some experience or for the networking opportunities. When the tedium becomes almost too much to bear, remind yourself of your motivation. It will help you get through the hours.

Many graduates start temping as a stop-gap because they haven’t found a ‘graduate’ role – but it can be a great route into some of the less common and unadvertised graduate jobs. A temporary assignment is a chance to show your skills off in person – and if you’re really good, an organisation will do its best to keep you on. Then it’s up to you to decide whether you like the company enough to take on a permanent role. You’ll also get a chance to see internal job adverts, do some networking with industry professionals and build up your CV.

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