Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Answering Reader Mail: Finding Temp Agencies in Los Angeles

JH recently wrote me and asked the following question, "With so many temp agencies out there, I don't know which is/isn't good. I was wondering if you could give me the name of the temp agency you worked with. Thanks so much in advance!"

Dear JH,

Thank you for reading my blog! You ask a very good question and I'm so glad you are being proactive with your job hunt and career.

A lot of people ask me this question and this is what I tell everyone. The best strategy is to sign up with every single temp agency in town. When I started out, no one really had a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook/MySpace so I just opened up the YellowPages and called every single one. Lucky for you, there's Google!

You'll find that every major movie studio, tv network, or entertainment company usually has their own in-house temping agency. If a company you want to temp at isn't a huge company, you'll find that there are a handful of temp agencies that stand alone that cater to the remaining companies such as the agencies or production companies. Some good places to start are the Comar Agency, Friedman Agency, and The Grapevine to name a few. You'll also find that there are temp agencies that cater only to the legal field or accounting, but have 2-3 entertainment clients on the off-chance. Don't forget to reach out to those companies too!

Once you find out their email or fax number, they will ask you to submit your cover letter and resume. If they think they can find work for you, they will bring you in. It will take an hour or two to take typing, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint tests. They may ask you to take tests for Outlook, 10-key, or grammar/writing as well. You'll also meet with a recruiter/agent for an interivew portion to discuss your background and what you're looking for. Some agencies will completely reformat your resume (with your final approval for accuracy) for you to their style/liking or will ask you to revise your resume to their standards. Sometimes it will take a week or two to be called in for an interview/testing appointment. You may also have to pay for your own 1-2 hour parking while you are meeting with these agencies because they don't offer validated parking. They will ask you what other temp agencies you are working through, what other jobs you recently applied to, and how much you make to make sure no one's time is wasted and to prevent from you being submitted to the same job 3 times.

You'll find some temp agencies are very elite in who they will allow to work for them. It's rumored that some places won't take anyone green at all. The very good temp agencies will call you for work every morning instead of making you call them. Good temp agencies will also keep in mind what your career goals are and what you want. (I was once offered a job. However, the catch was, I had to accept it on the spot without an interview, without meeting any co-workers, or knowing anything about the job. All I knew was the department and my job title. I said no. It didn't sit well with me that the usual interview process wasn't in place.)

Other things to keep in mind... It's best to choose temp agencies that are near your house. Very often, you'll get a call at 8am saying they need you to start at 9am. They are less likely to pick you for a Valley assignment if you live on the Westside, if at all. Take every assignment offered to gain exposure so they get used to working with you regardless of the field (tv, film, radio, internet, PR, talent management, music). Your goal when temping isn't a full-time job, but to first prove you are a good worker, get more assignments, get better assignments, and become the top candidate on their list once openings arise. It's also your chance to see if you like the company, the corporate culture, and if it's the right fit. Be prepared for very slow days. Whatever task they assign you, do it correctly, quickly, and happily. Prove you are good at the mundane boring stuff so they will think about giving you juicier tasks. And realize sometimes there isn't a lot to do but answer the phone and take messages.

All the typical rules apply when on a temp assignment that apply to a full-time job. Don't be late, call in sick appropriately (but bring in a doctor's note so they don't think you are interviewing), dress business casual or for the office you work in, don't see your temp job as a place to schmooze, network, or sell your screenplay/etc. You get the picture.

Here are some ways to stand out above the rest aside from a very-well written cover letter and resume. If you have written letters of recommendation give the temp agency copies. Also, spruce up your LinkedIn profile and have a lot recommendations there with 360 views. Sign up with Brazen Careerist and start a blog (see mine and link to me) so you have a web presence. 99% of temp jobs are for assistant, PA, or similar type positions. Make sure your resume reflects those necessary skills, even if when you did it was at an internship. (My resume when I started out had both college and high school internships so that I could utilize the full page. Some might question the high school portion but it was very relevant - I was a journalist and on-air so I had reels and writing samples if requested. All of my previous work experience was in the field of education so it was listed, but not emphasized.)

Right now there might be fewer temping assignments, but the majority of job openings I've seen in the entertainment industry are for people just out of college. They are all entry-level so things are on your side, JH! Feel free to ask more questions and I hope to read about your journey through a Brazen Careerist blog.

Kiyomi :)

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