A snapshot of the trials and tribulations of working as a holiday temp and some top tips to ensuring you benefit from the experience in the best possible way.
Katie, former Park Street People temp
Aged 16, the ultimate school holiday job was working in the McDonalds in Windsor. No idea why, but it was true. Come post-GCSE holidays, there was a whole line of my friends donning caps and check shirts and lining up behind the counter. It was great for the freebies but, to be frank, for an entire summer they all stank of grease.
Thankfully, my mum suggested I might make more money, and smell more fragrant, temping in an office. So, off I went to Park Street People which was my local recruitment agency. It was the start of a relationship that financed me, and subsequently lots of my friends, through sixth form, gap years, university and beyond.
My first temp job was stuffing envelopes and doing odd administrative tasks for a large company in Dedworth during the summer holidays. Okay, it wasn’t thrilling but it was 9-5 which meant my evenings and weekends were free, and the hourly pay was much more than in a pub or restaurant. It also gave a naive 16-year-old, such as I was, a really good grounding in general office and customer service skills. I learnt how to answer a phone professionally, how to deal with a wide range of people in a business environment and how to juggle office politics. Plus, it gave me experience and references I could put on my CV which, in a competitive job market like we have now, was invaluable.
Luckily for me, I got good feedback from that first work experience stint. After that, before every long holiday during school, college and university, I would give PSP a call to see if there were any bits of temping I could pick up. Often over summer or easter holidays, companies look for short-term staff cover. 2 weeks’ solid temping meant I could earn enough to go on a proper holiday, or save up for something special. However, sometimes just the odd-day temping could be fun; helping out at special events like the Royal Windsor Horse Show was a highlight! As I got older, the temporary positions got more interesting. One friend, to whom I’d recommended PSP, was studying languages at university. She was able to use those in her temporary job. It was a handy, and profitable, way of revising!
Working in lots of different environments was a challenge. You have to quickly adapt and hit the ground running. After all, you are paid as soon as you walk in the door so you need to prove you are worth it! Of course, there were times when I didn’t get on with the some of the people I worked with, or, being the holiday temp, you were given the rubbish jobs to do (licking stamps!) but in every job, in every company, at some point you are going to have to work with people or do things you don’t like. It’s life. So I saw it as a very formative experience that has actually set me in great stead for my career.
In the end, in my career, I’ve not ended up working in an office. But I still think it was a brilliant experience. Decently paid, office-based temping funded me through the things I wanted to do in the holidays (i.e. unpaid work experience at a newspaper) and, once I had built up a good relationship with my PSP consultant, I could tailor it to fit in with my other holiday plans.
Not something you could say for McDonalds!
My Tips for Holiday Temping
Register BEFORE the holidays start: After my initial PSP registration, I would give my recruitment consultant a call a month before my holidays to let her know the dates I would be available. That way, I would be first in line for any jobs that came up. A little reminder email or quick phone-call every so often, just to see, never went amiss!
Be on time: As you are only there for a short period a temp has to hit the ground running from day one
If in doubt, wear a suit / go smart: My recruiter would always give me an idea of the environment I was temping in, but I always made a point of looking neat and tidy. Lots of holiday temps will be on reception or front of house this is crucial
Avoid Facebook: I saw what a bad impression it gave an employer if they saw temps always on Facebook or checking personal email. Again, as holiday temps are there for only a short space of time, you only have a small window to impress
Get your timesheet in promptly: I always loved filling in my timesheet and working how much I’d earned for the week
Stick with it: Sometimes you might not like the job you are doing. But remember, it is temporary. Grit your teeth and think of the money! If it’s really awful (and I never had an ‘awful’ one – just boring!), let your PSP consultant know your concerns. They are always so helpful and could be able to help
You never know where a holiday temp job may lead: One temporary employer asked if I would be interested in coming back after University in a permanent role. Although it wasn't right role for me personally, it showed how opportunities can open up if you are flexible and make a good impression from Day 1