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January 26, 2016
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Okay, here we go…
On and off, I have worked as a temporary secretary for 4 years between jobs.
I want to suggest to you how being a temp can get you into the door of many companies where you couldn’t get into on your own. They may also lead you to a full-time job.
When you go to an agency to sign up, they will have you fill out the usual forms and a place to list all of your skills. You will also have the option of selecting several types of assignments, such as:
(1) short-term assignments (1-2 weeks);
(2) long-term assignments (a month or more);
(3) Temp-to-perm assignments – companies try you out before hiring you full-time.
If you sign on with temp-to-perm assignments, you have a better chance of getting a full-time job. Try not to accept a full-time employment offer if you hate the place. Check with your agency when you sign up to see what their policy is about being re-assigned to another company if offered a job you don’t want.
I always took short assignments because it got me into more companies. A few times they did offer me a full-time job.
On the form, tell the agency the type of work you are looking for in general: banking, medical, secretarial, clerical, manual labor, etc.
You will be tested on secretarial skills such as typing, computer knowledge, spelling, etc. Don’t worry if you bomb out on typing. You can be a file clerk, receptionist, etc. You can also go back and take the typing test again after your jitters from the first time have calmed down in a month or so.
The easiest assignments to get are for receptionists.
I am not sure how the manual labor area works, so I can not address this. But, agencies do have this option available.
Dress accordingly: shirt, tie, slacks for guys and a blouse, skirt, heels for girls.
It’s not a bad idea to ask the agency for feedback about how you are dressed and your make-up. Because of discrimination laws, the agency is not going to tell you this on their own, so you definitely need to ask them point blank what they think of your appearance.
Their feedback is important because you need to know if your “style” is too extreme and if it is going to limit where they can send you.
The whole process of signing up and testing takes about 2 hours. You do not need an appointment.
Bring your resume and references. Don’t worry if there are gaps in your resume. The economy is lousy so they are very used to hearing people tell them they have been laid off. You could be a mother getting back into the work force.
Once you accept an assignment, you are expected to finish it. If you don’t, you will have a harder time being placed in a new assignment. Or, they may just let you go. So, to get your feet wet, I’d suggest short-term assignments to start.
The perfect balance is to sign up with two or three agencies so you can have more opportunities to get work. There are also temp agencies that specialize such as accounting, medical, etc. Check Yellow Pages or Google to find out who they are in your area.
The agency will also ask you how far you are willing to travel. I’d suggest 15-20 miles. It will give you a much wider scope.
Once an assignment is finished, the company is sent a survey card to see how you did, such as: Did you show up time? Were assignments finished on time; Was your appearance satisfactory, etc. The better grades you get over time lets the agency know you are a good bet and they should keep you busy and many times on assignments that pay more.
If a company liked you and your work, many times they will keep your name on a list of temps they want to use again. So, you may be asked for by name. The agencies love this. It makes them look good.
As far as I know, you are not required to sign any contract with the agency. I never have.
The agency will tell you your hourly rate for each assignment. The more skills you have, the better the pay. You are allowed to refuse an assignment. The company is expected to pay the agency on a separate bill, so it is not coming out of your paycheck.
If you are an executive who has been laid off, the worst mistake you can make is trying to find the same type of position and pay. Maybe through connections you could get help to get the same job and pay. But, this is a long shot.
When going temp, you need to lower your expectations – a lot.
If you were in the arena of accounting and your salary was $60,000, you need to sign up with a temp agency that specializes in accounting. They also will keep you moving around to various companies where you may get a break.
Using temp-to-perm assignments will be your best bet to get a job in your field.
With long-term assignments, you may get stuck in a company you don’t like. With short-term assignments, you will have exposure to more jobs.
So, here is the catch a lot of people are too proud to take:
You are no longer an executive with a secretary. You may be offered a temp assignment as an assistant bookkeeper rather than running the whole show.
Many men in particular, find this too humiliating to even consider. However, you are now employed. Tell your friends who ask, that you are using the agency to find a new job. Tell them it surprised you how much fun you are having and what a nice break it is from all the pressure of your old job. Use anecdotes and tell them about the various funny characters you have met and situations that have happened. Give it an upbeat twist and this should help you save face.
I am going to plug a movie: “The Intern”. The man (Robert De Niro) is retired, he goes back into the workforce due to boredom. He is very low key and has to make humorous adjustments to the new generation and to his boss (Anne Hathaway). The movie is very uplifting. I highly recommend it if you are looking for work.
Psychologically, temp work is a great way to keep you moving out in the real world instead of sitting home making pointless phone calls and mailing out resumes. It also helps ward off depression.
I know this because one cowardly phone call from my boss, while I was at home, laid me off and I was back to working temp jobs. I had been the executive director of a county wide organization for six years making $40,000 with free health insurance.
There is an upside. You are no longer saddled with the long hours, endless meetings, making presentations, etc. You will have the relief of knowing you will leave work at five and have more time to spend with your family.
So, basically there is work out there if you are willing to lower your expectations.
There are the “Type A” people who will just cast a much wider net and move to a new state where there is more employment. They may also take the plunge and change careers.
SUGGESTIONS FOR LOWERING YOUR DEBT WHEN UNEMPLOYED
I am in no way a financial advisor, but I can speak from my own terrifying experiences of being in debt and suddenly out of work.
Some ways to lessen your financial burden, are to slash spending on things you think are crucial, but which you can definitely cut from your budget:
Cancel all of them. You can get a basic cell phone for $19 a month through Cricket which is what I have. (No contract or on-going fees. Cancel anytime.) I am single and have the basic plan to use to call friends for a very short chat, cabs or AAA when on the road with a flat tire. You can get fancier plans which cost more and give you more hours, but try to keep it low. There are start-up fees, but they are not bad and you only have to do it once.
I keep mine in my purse but it is totally turned off.
Your monthly bill will come through a company named Great Call which will be on the address part of the envelope. Don’t throw it out as junk mail, as I almost did.
Giving up cell phones is going to be a very, very hard adjustment as most people use those fancy ones with family plans or the ones that take photos, and have 20 apps on them and give almost unlimited hours. If you are under a contract, ask them how to cancel it. Tell them you have been laid off and can’t afford it anymore.
With the Cricket you will need to be aware of the minutes used because they go fast. If you go over your limit, you will be charged for it at the normal rate. They will call you and suggest you buy a larger monthly block of minutes, which in many cases you may need. Try to keep it at $30. Cricket/Great Call is a good company. I never felt hustled.
Double-think every call. Do you really need to call home from the grocery store and talk for 10 minutes? I have a landline phone which I use for most things. Prior to having a cell phone, I was in my grocery store and asked a customer service rep or a bagger if I could borrow their cell phone. They were very nice about it.
Sit down as a family and gently let your kids know that finances are tight because their dad or mom was laid off and the whole family is going to have to lower costs. Tell them you are sorry and try to look very, very sad and serious. Your kids have probably not seen you in that mood before (very often), so the shock of that will definitely kick-start them to be willing to help.
A great way to start, is to ask your kids what they are willing to give up to help with expenses. I think you will be very proud of them as they pull together and be willing to forego a lot of luxuries they have become used to. Only one of them has to start talking about what they are willing to give-up and they should start pulling together as a group. No child likes seeing their parents really sad and worried.
Canceling their cell phone is not going to go over well with your kids, so tell them they have the option of paying for it themselves (get a job). They have plenty of kids around them to borrow phones from.
If you are a business man or woman who owns their own company and needs a cell phone for work with more minutes, you may want to buy a second cell phone from Cricket with a lot more hours.
I just called an accountant, and she said the second phone and fees attached are tax-deductible if used for work. (Save the attached paperwork that comes with the bill in case you are audited.) In some professions the company will supply the phone and pay for the whole thing, especially for construction workers and realtors.
If you are using your personal cell phone for work, and not getting paid for it, tell your employer you need one the company will pay for. This is a common problem a lot of bosses don’t know about. I saw this frequently on “Undercover Boss” especially for people who work outside or make deliveries. Remind them it is tax-deductible. You’ll get their attention with that one.
If you are lucky enough to have a housekeeper, bite the bullet and let them go, unless you want to keep this as your favorite luxury. Actually, what I really did was cut the number of hours and asked her to come once a month for two hours instead of twice a month. Then I had to ask her if she could come only one hour a month. I told her the truth and she was willing to work with me on it.
The only reason I have a housekeeper now is because I have arthritis. Making a bed or even vacuuming puts be in bed the next day.
I know, I know. You’d need a loaded gun held to your head before giving these up. But, wow, they are expensive and the up-keep is supposed to be every two weeks. Could you compromise and just get a manicure on your regular nails once or twice a month?
Doing it yourself at home is, of course, the best way to save a lot of money. The last time I had a regular manicure it cost $25 plus tip.
But, wait — I am going to go against my own advice on this one. I feel fantastic after a normal manicure and your self esteem is going to need a boost. So, go for it. I’d pass on pedicures.
I did find a nifty way to get a “manicure” and “pedicure” dirt cheap. I asked if they would be willing to just cut the hand, toe nails and file them. That’s it. $15 plus tip. I fiddled around with cuticle softeners and painted them myself.
The kiss of death. You really need only one account preferably from your bank with two cards to share with your wife/husband.
Whenever possible, pay CASH for everything. It will feel weird, but after awhile it actually feels great. I know some things you do have to pay with a check (mortgage payments, car payments, etc.). But, try to keep other flexible spending with cash.
Go through your credit card bills with a fine toothed comb. I was recently surprised to find out I was being billed monthly for a service I thought I had signed up for only three months! Next to that charge is always a phone number. Call it and find out what is going on. Man, was I pissed. But, when I called I was very calm and they were very nice about it. Don’t go into the attack mode. You’ll just make the whole process harder than it really is.
I cancelled it immediately and they refunded the current month’s payment. But, I didn’t catch this for five months. That is why you need to check it monthly line by line. I hate to admit this to you, but this has happened to me at least seven times over 20 years. So much for taking my own advice. I’d guesstimate that my failure to check my credit card statements has cost me $800 over time. That’s a lot of shoes.
Go into the bank, tell them you want to lower your credit limit to $10,000. You can still request this lower limit even if you still owe them a lot more money.
Hold your ground – banks can be very pushy and ask why. Do not tell them you have been laid off as this may backfire. Just tell them it is for personal reasons or that you are re-evaluating your finances. If they continue to give you a hard time, stand up and tell them in a very simple tone that you are closing your credit card with them. This should help. Standing up is very powerful body language.
Take your other credit cards out of your wallet, (they shouldn’t all be in there anyway), put a rubber band around them and stash them in your safe deposit box.
I have heard on TV from well-known financial advisors that closing them is not a good idea, but I think they are wrong. Here’s why:
I went into my bank. I applied for a $2,500 loan for dental work and was denied even though my credit was excellent. I was told they had to factor in the “potential debt” I had from my other cards.
So, I closed them. I ordered one small thing from each card so I could get the info on the bill where to write and how to do it. However, it takes several months for this change to get through the whole credit rating system. I eventually got my teeth fixed.
However, I did hear some advice from a Financial Advisor I did agree with. They strongly suggested that you take the credit card with the least amount owed and get that one paid off first. Then close it. That way, you will feel a sense of accomplishment that you are getting control over your finances. Use the money you would have spent on your cancelled cell phones to pay against that credit card and that should help a lot.
Cancelling your cell phones will also give you another feeling of accomplishment. With one cancellation phone call you have just taken at least $150 a month off of your back.
When in debt, I just paid the monthly minimum. Financial advisors are against this too because of the interest charged, but they don’t have to worry about my next car payment, do they?
I know you can close these credit cards even if you owe them money. They just keep sending you a monthly bill.
Other things to review:
TV: Do you really need 100 channels? I get by just fine with 35. Call your provider. There are many other options that are a lot less expensive.
Dry cleaning? Men, you can wear the same shirt twice a week if you are neat and wear a short sleeved t-shirt underneath to keep your under arms dry. Of course, this depends on your job. If you are in construction, forget it.
Come on, ladies. How many pairs of shoes do we really need? I know you want more, but you can’t afford it during this upheaval. This includes purses, too. Don’t get suckered into buying them because they are on super sale. For a few years, I had to literally stop going to many stores I loved because I knew I’d buy something.
Showing your willingness to give up things (without whining) will help your partner know you are on their side. They are not happy about this either.
Heat and AC
If at all possible, totally turn off you heat and AC when leaving your house for several hours while interviewing or working temp. I did this and saved at least $30 a month.
Most animals can adapt to this but check with your vet. You may need only a box fan on the floor. Teach your kids how to turn on the heat or AC while also using the auto setting after getting home from school. That way it is still turned off for at least 8 hours.
Another trick I used was to totally turn off the heat or air conditioning when I went to bed. I bought an electric blanket for winter which worked great. I still have and use it. They last for at least 6 years. In some states you will need to keep the AC on at night, but set it as low as possible and use a large fan at night.
Set a firm limit and stop buying all that junk food. Look at your bill after you get home. How much of that stuff do you really need?
One trick I used was to put the budgeted grocery money in cash into an envelope and used cash from that to pay for food. That is a real wake-up call. Once the cash is gone, it’s gone. That’s when you start to get really serious and make a list and stick to it. From what I have seen, soft drinks are the top offenders, bottled water and junk food come next.
Stop using debit cards. It is too easy to buy more than you need. I had to learn that one the hard way when my rent check bounced. Keep one in your purse/wallet for emergencies if you think you have the self discipline.
You can use your bank’s ATM for cash keeping your budget in mind. If you know you will need $150 for food that month, withdraw it and put it into an envelope marked “Groceries”.
If you have a Dollar General store, use it! They will have 60% of what you need and you save a lot of money. Fancy brand names and all. I use mine all the time for toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, sanitary products, bar soap and laundry detergent, etc. Make a separate list for the things you want to buy there. It is too easy to buy all that stuff at a grocery store and pay top dollar.
Clip coupons. At first it is annoying, but once you get the hang of it you might actually start enjoying it. I did.
I was at a regular grocery store once and wanted to buy these ice cream sticks covered in luscious dark chocolate. I didn’t look at the price. I just wanted them. When I got home and looked at the bill, I had just shelled out $6.90 for six bars in one box – $1+ each. Okay, I’m not perfect either. Once in awhile I still bought a box when broke.
Do allow yourself a break from all of this madness. Once a month, a husband and wife can go to a very nice restaurant and have whatever they want. Try to budget this in so you can pay cash.
Ship your kids down the street to a friend’s home. Pick them up after dinner. You will need this break very much even if you don’t think so. Think of it as payback or a reward for all the miserably hard work you are doing. You really do deserve this break and won’t realize how much until you do it. Two hours of sheer bliss. (Try not to talk about your kids.)
Embarrassed about what your friends will think? Just say the word “laid off”. You will not lose their respect. Being laid off is happening all around them. They will probably start telling you about other friends of theirs who have been laid off, too.
And remember: This is not going to last forever. Once you get a full-time job, the pressure will be off. Plus, by then your family will have probably acclimated to all the changes, so keep them.
Try these suggestions, or your own, one at a time and give it two weeks or a month each. Go slowly. Making these changes is very emotionally draining and a lot of anger can go along with it.
I know this doesn’t even begin to cover all the realities you have to deal with after losing your job, so go on YouTube. Find out how other people have adjusted to much lower incomes. There should be a lot of funny and cool ways to do it, which neither of us have thought of.
Best wishes to you all,
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