My Cardboard Box

The Joys of being a Temp

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laborers1.gifThe blog gCaptain has a ‘Ten Reasons to Ship Out on a Rustbucket’ post. I’ve experienced many of those things in my Carter-era and beyond naval career. And yes – it was pretty much a beneficial experience.

But most folks can’t or won’t go ever work on a rusty freighter. So I’ll make a suggestion: try being a temporary worker, or ‘temp’. I did it for three years when I lived in Texas, and it was nearly as illuminating and educational as sailing on the M/V HunkOJunk:

10. You get to experience different things. From doing inventories, to filling goodie bags for celebrity events, assembling shelves and medical equipment, scraping burnt bread off baking trays, to the usual filing, sorting, and other office tasks. It can be tedious, back-breaking and downright uncomfortable. Sometimes it can be pretty neat. One of the best temp-jobs was working maintenance during a PGA tournament, ensuring the fasteners on the bleachers and press-booth scaffolding were secure, the carpeting stayed down, etc. A week of watching golf, meeting celebrities (because you wear a badge, they think you’re part of the tournament crew), and enjoying other perks (like the food). And getting paid for it.

9. Because you do different things, you discover both abilities you never knew existed, and that you have to develop skills on the fly.

8. You get to meet different people. All kinds of them, from workers to managers. Each of them will teach you something, even if to serve as a bad example. Sometimes you can even network.

7. You get to work at different places. Sometimes it’s at a Fortune 500 company, sometimes it’s out in the field with a set-up crew, sometimes in a hot dusty warehouse, sometimes at a firm that’s just reorganized or is barely above water. You learn how management operates (or doesn’t), how things are made/sold/processed, or how pervasive a corporate attitude is.

6. You learn how a temp agency works, especially if you hire on with multiple ones. Some will throw you into any assignment that comes up. Some look for particular workers, like young and strong ones built like oxen. Others specialize in areas like office-work. Still others do temp-to-hire; they make more money off the salary- percentage (they get a percentage of whatever annual salary you get hired at – sort of a finder’s fee) than they do just putting you on assignments. Again, you experience what different employers are like.

5. Because you’re exposed to a wide range of assignments, you learn to adapt and be flexible. You also learn to develop patience and a sense of humor (if you haven’t). You also find that having a good attitude might even make a sucky assignment bearable.

4. Because you’re a temp, you learn that what school you went to (or didn’t), what tax bracket you or your parents are in, or what you did in the past generally doesn’t matter. You’re, in essence, a commodity called ‘Labor’. It can be humbling. If you have an imagination, you can pretend you’re one of your immigrant ancestors.

4. Being a temp means you face low expectations from whoever hired you. Generally, they will consider you a druggie/ex-con/boozer/uneducated/mildly retarded oaf/slacker. This means if you show any kind of ability, skill, or initiative, they will be pleasantly surprised. It also means you may find yourself doing some of the more pleasant parts of an assignment.

3. Being a temp also means that, unless you hire with a ‘professional agency’, the temp agency that hires you out also has low expectations of you , no matter how you tested on their hiring exam. They too tend to be pleasantly surprised if they get positive feedback about you from a client.

2. If you’re a long-term temp (one who works at it for, say, more than six months) you find that you can pretty much write your own ticket. By then, you’ve established a reputation with both the agency and who you’ve worked for. You can pick and choose assignments, or even an industry (I ended up working for hi-tech, insurance and banking companies). Some clients will even ask for you specifically. It’s nice to be wanted.

1. Overall, it’s good character development. If you never worked a ‘real job’, you learn (or had better learn if you want to continue working) good work habits, like showing up when expected. Because there’s generally low expectations, if you have any drive, you can push yourself without too many bad consequences. Again, you meet a wide variety of experiences and an even wider people. Best of all, if the assignment is lousy, you finish it and walk away.


Written by PappyBro

March 13, 2008 at 20:23

Posted in Uncategorized

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