How to find temp work and further your job prospects

temp workIf you’re in reentry and need a job, consider applying to work as a temporary worker, or temp as they’re more commonly known.

And the best way to do that is to apply to one or more temporary agencies. These agencies place workers in hundreds of companies, both large and small, and in positions that include everything from factory and warehouse work to secretarial and nursing assistants. Whether you’re interested in being on an assembly line; doing data entry, bookkeeping or customer service; working on a construction site; or doing computer programming, look online for an employment agency that caters to your skillset.

Working temp jobs will not just give you a paycheck. It will also help you practice your skills – or learn new ones – expand your network of contacts and possibly lead to a regular employee position.

Although you will be working for a specific company, your true employer is the temp agency. That’s the one who pays your salary and, in the case of some agencies, offers you benefits that include health insurance and a 401(k) plan.

Both large and small agencies provide opportunities

While there are huge multinational temp agencies like Manpower, Kelly Services and Adecco, local smaller agencies are also good places to work. Some agencies are general and have lots of types of assignments. Others specialize in a specific industry, maybe health care, IT, construction or manufacturing. Ask around to see if any of your friends have worked for a temp agency. If they haven’t, search online to learn more about companies in your area.

Before you apply to work at a temp agency, however, check its website to see if it offers the types of jobs you’re interested in. Then call them to get an appointment for an interview.

During that appointment, you’ll fill out an application. You may also take some skills tests. Whether these will be typing, general knowledge, math or something else will depend on the type of position you’re interested in applying for. Although they usually conduct background and sometimes drug checks, many temp agencies are second chance employers. Therefore, you can be honest with what you tell them.

Find out about the type of jobs they have available and emphasize the skills you have that would allow you to succeed in those positions. Also mention the types of projects you’ve worked on and the machinery and technology you’re familiar with.

The schedule for the jobs they offer might be every day 9 to 5, a few days a week or possibly shift work. You need to tell your recruiter what hours and days you’re available and willing to work. Sometimes people are hired for a special project and sometimes to take the place of someone who is out on temporary leave or was laid off.

Depending on what’s available, some people apply at a temp agency one day and begin an assignment the next. If work isn’t immediately available, you might want to apply to more than one agency to expand your chances of finding work. Also, check in with  the recruiter at your agency every week or so to let them know that you’re still interested in a potential assignment with them.

How to be a good temp

Once you get the assignment, here are things you should do:

  • Although it’s a temporary job, treat the work with the respect and dedication you would a full-time position.
  • Dress appropriately. You can ask your recruiter or just look around the first day to see what other people are wearing.
  • Learn the company’s culture and rules. That will help you fit in and make a positive impression.
  • Ask as many questions as it takes to understand the nature of the work you’re doing and the expectations they have for you. Doing this doesn’t make you look like a pest. It shows you’re proactive.
  • If someone gives you a training session, be sure to take notes to help reinforce and remember what you learned.
  • Be flexible and open minded. Sometimes, a company might not have things totally ready. You may be switched from one desk or location to another during the first few days, for example.
  • If you finish the work you’ve been assigned for the day, ask if there’s anything else you can help out with.
  • Use the job as a learning experience and a chance to pick up new skills. In fact, many temp agencies offer access to online training. Manpower Group recently launched a program to offer GEDs to its qualified employees who don’t already have one.
  • Expand your network. Get to know the people you’re working with. If you aren’t offered permanent employment, they may have friends who are interested in hiring someone like you either now or in the future.
  • Ask your boss and the people you work with for feedback. That way you’ll know how to do things better next time around.
  • Stay in touch with your recruiter at the temp agency. And if they’re interested let them know about your experience working with their client.
What happens next

And after the first successful assignment, the temp agency may send you out on another. Or the company may be so happy with your performance that they decide to hire you for a regular employee position.

If you decide to look for a permanent job, be sure to list your temp work on your resume and highlight the experience you had there. Also ask your supervisor if they would be willing to act as a reference.

The experience you gained from your temp job and the contacts you made while working there might launch you on the path to being a regular employee. At the very least, it will give you experience, maybe some new skills, and a better understanding of what it takes to get and perform a type of job you may be interested in.

Texas nonprofit hires ex-offenders to build houses for veterans

Maria Pic

Maria Schneider, Terra Shelter, Inc.

Maria Schneider is out to change the construction industry in Dallas, Texas, one ex-offender at time. Her way to do this: By building a nonprofit that sells rehabbed homes to veterans at below market rate prices and hires employees who were formerly incarcerated.

Her original plan was to rehab houses, but how she decided to hire formerly incarcerated workers came about in a rather serendipitous way.

Trained as an electrical engineer and a biomedical engineer, Schneider got started in construction in her late 20s. The only house she could afford to buy needed a lot of work, and she did it in her spare time. She loved the process and later launched a construction company.

“I had a residential custom building business in the mid 2000s. It was in Austin, and there was an economic boom there,” she says. “The only people I could find to work were ex-offenders, and I got to know them really well and started understanding some of the issues involved in reentry.”

These issues ranged from a lack of a place to live and bad relationships with family members to substance abuse and access to reliable transportation. Another issue was not having a way to make money, which Schneider solved by hiring them.

It wasn’t easy though. “You really have to start from scratch and teach them a lot of things besides the job. You have to teach them a lot of life skills and tell them what to do,” she says.

“But ex-offenders are excluded by a lot of places automatically, so if someone doesn’t include them they’re not going to end up with jobs. A lot of programs provide job training but not jobs. You have to provide them not just with the job training but a job that goes along with it, so they’ll have some income while they’re developing skills and be able to show some experience on their resume.”

After starting to build homes again and forming a nonprofit, Terra Shelter, Inc., Schneider remembered those workers she had once hired and wanted to create jobs for others like them. And she has. In fact, she has made it her mission to do so.

Although Schneider is just, as she says, starting out, her organization has already rehabbed five homes built in the 1920s and 1930s – most of which had to be completely gutted – and located in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city of Dallas.

She’s teamed up with the Tarrant County Housing Partnership. The organization works with several banks, which are required by the government to donate some of the foreclosed homes they receive to nonprofits as part of an anti-blight effort.

The organization began about a year and a half ago, when it received donated houses that were in pretty bad shape. “While our focus was on providing affordable housing, in the process I decided that what I really wanted to do was to work with ex-offenders and teach them the skills they needed to do the job,” she says.

Although working with employees who have been incarcerated has more than its share of challenges, Schneider has found many of them to be very loyal and hard working.

Up until now, she has hired people rather randomly. In the rough and tumble neighborhood of southeast Dallas where her nonprofit works rehabbing houses, she’s often approached by ex-offenders looking for work.

After dealing with the unreliability of some of the workers she hired this way, Schneider decided this recruitment method was unsustainable and has partnered with the Oasis Center, a nonprofit organization providing reentry services and mentoring that help formerly incarcerated individuals get a new start.

In the meantime, her site supervisor is an ex-offender, and Schneider tries to hire as many formerly incarcerated individuals as possible. If she can’t, however, she turns to veterans. Her plumber and electricians fall into this category.

The houses she’s rehabbed have been a really good learning experience, but as a sustainability consultant, Schneider is passionate about green building and would like to get into new home construction. “Trying to build green and affordable is kind of radical here in Texas,” she says.

But no doubt so is hiring ex-offenders. And both are challenges she’s determined to take on.