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The Temp Commandments

Every business day, almost 3 million Americans, many of them college students and new college graduates, go out on short-term work assignments as temporary employees. Few, however, make it the rewarding experience it can be, for both themselves and their employers. Here are 10 tips to do just that:

1. Thou Shall Accept Various Assignments

If you, like many college students and new grads, are temping with the hope of earning about various companies and industries, you need to be flexible when considering assignments. Don't turn down an assignment unless you're absolutely convinced it will be a poor fit.

2. Thou Shall Keep in Mind Thy Reasons for Temping

Did you seek temporary work so you'd have one or two days a week to pursue the type of job you'd really like to have? If so, don't fall into the trap of accepting assignments five days a week. On the other hand, if you need the money to pay the bills, be sure to set aside enough days or hours during the week to earn the cash you need.

3. Thou Shall Go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

Once you're in your temporary workplace, do more than what's expected of you. Simply being competent and completing the work you're assigned is enough to get you noticed in many companies. So if you show enthusiasm and do more than you're required to, you'll gain respect and the chance to do more than just answer phones.

4. Thou Shall Get to Know Many People and Departments

This is especially important if you're using temping as a stepping-stone to bigger, better and more permanent things. The more you can sense what's going on in the company and why, through simple, casual conversations with your coworkers, the more opportunities you'll likely spot and the better the chances you'll know who to approach about those opportunities.

5. Thou Shall Seek Out Extra Assignments

You'll sometimes find yourself with little or no real work to do in temporary assignments. Don't cure your boredom by reading a magazine or surfing the Web. Instead, ask your supervisor or others in the company if there's anything you can help them with, especially if doing so will give you a chance to learn a new software program or participate in an important project.

6. Thou Shall Promote Thy Skills

Your supervisor may have a copy of your resume, but it's likely he hasn't had the time or the inclination to look at it. Take a moment to write up a brief (half-page) memo describing the types of things you can do for the company. Often, your supervisor will be pleasantly surprised to discover you can take on unexpected tasks and assignments.

7. Thou Shall Ask Questions -- More than Once if Necessary

The short-term embarrassment you might suffer by asking what you perceive to be dumb questions won't compare to the embarrassment you'll experience by screwing up an assignment your supervisor thought you understood.

8. Thou Shall Always Keep a Resume on Hand

You never know when your supervisor or someone else at the company is going to approach you about a full-time position. After all, as a successful temp you'll be a proven employee.

9. Thou Shall Prepare a 'Mini Commercial'

If you do good work for the company and spend some time getting to know your coworkers, someone will likely ask you, "So what kind of job are you really looking for?" You need to be ready to respond with a 15-second "advertisement", so the person quickly understands what you want and what you might contribute, whether to his company or someone else's.

10. Thou Shall Stay Positive

It can be very difficult to hold your head high, especially when half of your coworkers refer to you as "the temp" instead of calling you by your real first name. But with a good attitude and a little grace under pressure, you'll likely earn the respect of your coworkers and bosses, have a good overall experience and possibly land a permanent position.

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