Being upfront with your temps can avert disappointment

Previous writers for this column have noted how they used staffing firms to help them establish professional experience fresh out of college. I had a different experience. My finance and accounting staffing firm found it difficult to place me out of college since I had no work history.

My goal in working through a staffing firm was to gain a little bit of experience while looking for a long-term career in public accounting. After two months of job searching, I ended up finding a three-month internship on my own. Even after my internship, the going was tough. So instead, I studied for and earned my CPA.

I continued to look for a job in accounting, particularly in public accounting. There was never an audit associate position open, and because it was not the start of audit season, companies did not need to fill entry-level positions. The task was daunting and self-doubt slowly crept in. I wish my staffing firm kept me apprised of what was happening, even if there were no updates to give. Any guidance, including words of encouragement, would have gone a long way.

Eventually, the staffing firm did find me a position as an accounting assistant at a prominent company with a well-established business culture and strong finance department. I learned a lot and fit in well with the team, but also faced many challenges.

I started the assignment in the middle of an ERP system implementation. They had me train on billing, reconciliation and accounts payable. There was a grueling amount of data entry and number crunching. I felt that I had more to offer the company, but I had no say in how I could contribute. Additionally, I always felt detached from the company because they were wary of investing in me. All of this is completely understandable, considering I wanted this assignment to be strictly temporary. Still, it made work difficult at times.

Overall, I am grateful for this experience, even if it was not what I was looking for. It gave me an understanding that I lacked and helped me grow professionally.

However, there are ways it could have gone better. And I think others can benefit from my thoughts as well. Were I to do it again, I would be sure to clarify my expectations. I would like the staffing firm to work more closely with me and spell out their expectations. It would have helped to find out what the assignment involved and communicate that back to me before the assignment. It’s also really important that the temp understand the culture of the client. Had my recruiter done that, I would have been better prepared to face what was thrown my way.

As a recruiter, I encourage you to have your temps share what they want to get out of the experience and know how they want the experience to play into their future development. And if yours is not the type of firm that can place a recent college grad with no experience, say that from the outset. Be upfront. Let them know at all points where they stand and what they can expect.

Further, encourage your contingents to find a mentor outside their work assignments so that they have a professional who can vouch for them. Holding networking events for your temps would go a long way in establishing this type of relationship. Training and continuing education is a must as well, to keep their skills fresh. And encourage your clients to take steps to keep your contingents engaged.

If I had gone into public accounting immediately, I might never have had the experience of doing this type of work. My temp experience helped me resolve what I really want and confirmed my level of expertise.