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Temps: Whose Lifeline Is It Anyway?

26 Apr 2023 |

By Nick Coleridge-Watts

Temp desk

Having been by turns a VWA temp, a client, and now a VWA consultant, Co-MD, Nick shares his thoughts on the world of temping and the beautifully symbiotic relationship between temps and clients.

​I’ve always had an affection for temps, and not just because in a former life I was one myself. Having decided at the age of 8 that I wanted to be a barrister (precocious I know, but I was seduced by the wigs), and years later realising, after scraping a dubious pass in my GDL, that it wasn’t quite for me (wigs were conspicuous by their absence, and you need a brain the size of Plymouth), I signed up to VWA. I fell into temping to see what was out there, and performed the usual gamut of roles, from facilities, to admin, to reception, to assistant, before landing on my feet as part of a dynamic HR department. Although now in a fixed role, I was responsible for the temps the company used, and so maintained my involvement with that community.

By then I’d realised: temping rocks!

I’d reached that conclusion some months earlier. The support of the VWA Consultants who found me work and pushed me to challenge myself, as well as the outgoing HR Assistant who saw me temping in different departments and encouraged me to apply for his role, cemented my vision of what temping is; it’s a lifeline.

For a long time I thought it was primarily a lifeline for candidates.

If you are a “good soldier”, e.g. prepared, turn up on time and properly dressed, take things in your stride, get on with what’s asked without ruffling any feathers, are proactive etc., it’s breezily meritocratic. You get noticed. People start to see you as capable of more, even as a potential hire. Your experience grows over time, making it progressively easier to get work, and your income rises accordingly. Suddenly you’re not a penniless former law student, or an actor who doesn’t know where next month’s rent is coming from, or a young parent who needs flexible working. You have options.

As my time in HR progressed, I worked out that temps were a lifeline for their clients as well.

It has remained so since I moved inhouse at VWA. Permanent searches, with their fixed candidate profiles, multiple rounds of interviews subordinate to fluctuating schedules, and extra administrative steps, routinely mean needing the easy help of an interim temp. All too often that temp, whose CV might never pass muster as a perm, sets the standard by which the perm candidates are measured. The same goes for temps who make frequent return visits for sickness and holiday covers. It’s not unusual for clients to want to secure them so far in advance it’s impossible to say if they’re free or not!

Each temp has a story.

Many are subsidising their vocations or saving up for a specific purpose. Some have personal commitments which render them unsuitable for permanent roles. Loads, like me, just don’t know what they want to do next. Each temp starts with no experience and grows from there. And each client, regardless of whether they’re inclined to give a temp their first break, or only take them after someone else has, knows a temp who made their lives much easier. It’s a symbiotic relationship. A lifeline that flows two ways. And thanks to temping, I discovered the job I love is making it happen. Shame it doesn’t come with a wig…

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