11 Tips for Succeeding as a Temporary Employee

Updated on May 22, 2020
Kosmo profile image

Kelley has been doing temporary work on and off for years and has learned many best practices through experience.

Working as a temp can be tough. Follow these 11 guidelines to be the best temporary worker you can.
Working as a temp can be tough. Follow these 11 guidelines to be the best temporary worker you can. | Source

Advice for Temps: Dos and Don'ts

I’ve worked for many years as a temporary employee. I've actually done this on-and-off since 1999. So yes, you could call me a temp. For better or worse, I suppose you could also say I’m an expert at being a temp. I guess that’s something like saying I’m an expert at home data entry, but I’ll take whatever achievements I can get.

I’ve worked as a temp primarily in the clerical/bookkeeping field, so the tips I provide will pertain to that field, though, of course, much of what I write could be useful in any line of work.

If you're starting your first temporary job or if you’re trying to figure out why you’re having trouble with your present temporary position, please read on. It’s okay—you can learn from my pain. I don’t mind a bit.

1. Always Remember the Three Cs

The Three C’s are right out of Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Right at the top of Carnegie’s list is the suggestion, “Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” Whether you’re working as a temp or have a permanent job, you simply must follow this three-part rule.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with criticizing, condemning, or complaining, but you should never do any of the aforementioned at work. These Cs are downbeat, and you need to be positive at the workplace. People have enough trouble with their jobs—they don’t need your negativity! By the way, before I finish this article, I hope I don’t start sounding like the second coming of Dale Carnegie, Benjamin Franklin, or Confucius!

2. Don’t Make Yourself Look Bad

Whatever you do, don’t argue, lose your temper, or get defensive. Such emotional states overcome us from time to time, but don’t let it happen in the workplace. People will cut you some slack if you actually have a permanent job, but a temp should not raise their voice in anger or frustration at any time. People who act this way look terrible. If they could just see themselves in a video!

3. The Boss Is Always Right

It’s truly amazing how much clout even lower level bosses wield in the workplace. If you’ve ever run afoul of one and had to deal with the resultant retaliation, you know what I mean. This isn’t fair, of course, but there’s nothing democratic about the work environment. You’ll be at a great disadvantage when confronting a boss because they simply have more power, and if you take one on while working as a temp, you’ll be out the door quicker than a spit wad fired at close range.

For that reason, try to avoid “boss trouble” by helping them look as good as they can, even if that means ignoring their screw-ups. Watch your coworkers—they’ll be doing the same thing, so follow their lead. But avoid kissing tail. At first, the boss may like you for kissing up, but in the end you’ll downgrade yourself. Few people like brown noses.

4. Avoid Controversial Issues

Everybody knows that you should avoid talking about politics and religion in just about all social situations, and a temp should never discuss either while on the job. In fact, a temp should avoid discussing any controversial subject. Abortion would be an obvious example; others could be gay marriage, tax increases, drug testing in schools, and even sports. (You may not want to tell anybody at work you’re an Oakland Raiders fan, for instance.)

If you’re uncertain about the possible ramifications of talking about such issues, do yourself a big favor and keep your mouth shut. It’s hard to get in trouble if you don't say anything!

5. Don’t Be Too Ambitious

Since you don’t have an actual job where you work, you may want to show your desire to obtain one. There’s nothing wrong with doing this. Just make sure your ambition for obtaining a job isn’t so obvious that you go around telling people how much better you would be for a particular job than say, Bob or Jackie. In short, don’t ever give people a reason to feel threatened by you!

6. What Comes Around Goes Around

While working at your temporary assignment, you may have time to chat. If you’re somebody like me and have many years of experience working in offices, you may want to regale your coworkers with your trials and tribulations in this particular field.

This is all right, just make sure you don’t make specific references to real people and places. I live in Sacramento, California, a city of about a half-million people, and it's amazing how small this town can be. (It appears, the smaller the town, the more careful you’ll have to be!) So, be advised that if you speak badly of someone or a particular company, this candor can come back to haunt you.

7. Beware of Coincidences

Not long ago, I was assigned to work at a company located right across the street from the temporary agency for which I worked. Because of bad luck or bad karma perhaps, there were two people now working at this company with whom I had had some tense interactions about five years previous at another company across town.

They were now working right across the street from the temp agency!? What were the chances of this happening? This coincidence still baffles me!

Anyway, I kept my mouth shut about these past incidences. Nevertheless, on the morning of the second day, I was dismissed from this assignment. My supervisor at the company said something about them having computer trouble, so they no longer needed me. But I knew better.

I guess the lesson here is that no matter how hard you try, you’ll sometimes bump into a hornet’s net. That’s how the temp universe works!

8. You're All Alone

When there’s trouble in the office, don’t expect any of the regular employees to stick up for the temp. You’ll be left alone in such situations, so get used to it. Even if you think somebody else should admit they made a mistake, take the blame anyway. (As long as it’s not something really serious, of course.) This tactic will help you maintain a good business relationship, and the employer may bring you back someday.

9. Everybody's Beautiful

Don’t ever say anything negative about a coworker’s appearance. You probably should avoid compliments as well, because sometimes a compliment can be twisted around to sound like an insult.

10. Be the Complete Package

We all have weaknesses. We all make mistakes. Just try to be good at all aspects of your job. Show up every workday on time and ready to work. Be as accurate and hard-working as you possibly can and, perhaps above all else, behave yourself. If they think your Excel skills aren’t up to snuff, make sure they know how good you are with data entry, collections, correspondence, or whatever. As a temporary employee, you’ll want to present the complete package.

11. Don’t Let It Get You Down

At some point, you may get dismissed from a job for whatever any variety of reasons. Maybe they thought you weren’t “catching on quickly enough” and/or that you weren’t “technical” enough to suit their needs. At this point, look for reasons why this assignment wasn’t a very good one anyway. Maybe the pay was crappy—little more than minimum wage. Perhaps you had to drive more than 20 miles to work, or maybe your supervisor talked so fast you couldn’t understand them. Maybe the work was so boring and tedious you could hardly stay awake. These realizations will make you feel better because sometimes these people will be doing you a favor when they get rid of you!

Good Luck!

You certainly don’t want to be known as incompetent, but if you don’t behave yourself on the job, you could be let go much quicker than if you were simply incompetent. Nothing will get you dismissed from a temp job quicker than bad behavior. Moreover, you'll have a much more pleasant work experience if they actually like you. I hope this advice is helpful. Please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

  • I am a temp. My agency told me it was a temp to hire position. However, when I got there it wasn’t. They are having interviews for my position while I am there. How should I handle this?

    Temp jobs often turn out to be something other than what the account manager may have told you, so do the interview anyway. Otherwise, if the employment development department finds out you refused an interview, they can refuse to pay your benefits for weeks. The temp agency will probably appreciate that you took the interview as well.

© 2011 Kelley Marks


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      3 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Tracy. I think it's safe to say that all jobs can be a pain in the butt, so if you were let go, just tell yourself you may have avoided another hornet's nest. Bye!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Great article! I was just axed from a temp job that I was hoping would be permanent, I only wish I read your article sooner. Also, I really appreciate that you spoke honestly about the small town in a big city and the hornet's nest.

      It's amazing how emotional the rejection can be. I wasn't expecting that!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from California

      Thanks for the compliment, Londonlady. These tips could be used for any job, temp or otherwise. I've learned a lot working in offices for decades. Later!

    • Londonlady profile image

      Laura Writes 

      8 years ago

      This is relevant to me. I particularly agree with the part on not arguing with your boss. I can't tell you how many times my coworkers have argued with my boss (and let me just add that my boss WAS in the wrong) but arguing didn't help in the end. We still had to do what our boss said, and my coworker was irritated the entire day because of the fight. Great hub, voted up!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from California

      Thanks for the good tips, marellen. I wasn't born in Sacramento, but I've spent most of my adult life there. Later!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks neighbor.....I live in Folsom, Ca. I have worked for temps agencies also. Remembering who you work for is also important. You work for the Temp agency not the company they place you at. If you have a problem or don't like your placement, let the temp agency know not your supervisor at the company you work for. Also, I have found working as a temp rewarding but it doesn't come with benefits.

      PS Kosmo: is that your home in Sacto? Love it...

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Simone Smith. Having to put up with the BS of the workplace certainly can be depressing and disheartening. Later!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      I've worked in temporary positions for years before getting my current (AWESOME!) position at HubPages, and do agree with most of your tips... as depressing and disheartening it can be to follow through with them. Thanks for sharing your advice!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from California

      Thanks for the compliment, Kathy. I can use all the links I can get. Later!

    • profile image

      Kathy Justi 

      8 years ago

      Excellent helpful information! I'm posting to FaceBook for others to read.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from California

      Thanks for the compliment, Cardisa. As a temp, I have lots to recommend. Later!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      9 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Kosmo, you have some really good advice there. I would recommend them to anyone in any work environment. Very useful info!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from California

      Thanks, step sis, I really appreciate your appreciation and thanks for reading my story. Later!

    • profile image

      Debbie Adams 

      9 years ago

      Hey Step Bro...

      Nice write up.... You should be writing for a living...but you know that... Best to you and temping.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)