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The Temp Chronicles

After a few months of temping, I’ve seen that while I generally enjoy it, it’s different from permanent work in a lot of ways. Your outlook, your reward system, and your duties are completely different than with full-time work. While it’s not for everyone, temping can be a good option, especially when your other option is, well, not working.

Motivation ““ When you’re a temp, you most likely are clocking your hours on a weekly timesheet that you submit to get your meager paycheck (more on that later). This system gives you a completely different outlook on the use of your time in the office. Basically, if you aren’t busy, you have no reason to be there; you’d be wasting your time and the company’s money. But then again, if you aren’t working, you aren’t getting paid. Getting paid tends to light a figurative fire under temp’s asses. I’ve been asking people in my department for things to work on, as well as taking initiative and creating my own tasks, on a level much higher than when I was a full-time employee.

Duties ““ The kind of tasks generally given to a temp are fairly easy and low-level. You may have to learn a new database or filing system, you may have to fill in the blanks on often-insufficient instructions you’ve been given, but overall you’re going for pretty low-hanging fruit. Why? Well, if they still aren’t sure they want to hire you, they aren’t going to spend time and energy teaching or giving you more-complicated tasks. While this can be boring, it makes it easy to keep track of what you’re responsible for, and to complete any to-dos quickly and easily. Don’t forget, you’re still trying to impress the employer with your work ethic. Being so proactive feels pretty good, as does exceeding people’s low expectations.

Pay ““ Unless you’re an industry or skill-specific hire, such as a legal temp, your pay is going to be pretty low. It’s generally above what you made during summer jobs back in your school days, but it isn’t much to live on. Depending upon the pay, and the cost of living in your city, it might be difficult to make ends meet as a temp. Fortunately, the hourly structure is pretty flexible, and you may be able to work a second job around your schedule. That said, if you’re like me, even a tiny paycheck is better than no paycheck at all. It’s a good boost to hold you over while you keep looking for a permanent position.

The Dating Game ““ I could have written an entire post on the many ways in which temping is like dating. But, in brief: just like when you first start seeing someone, you and the organization are trying one another out. You’re putting your best foot forward, and trying to be perfect. I’ve been organizing my desk and wiping it down every afternoon so it’s immaculately clean. Do I do this in real life? Of course not. My recent struggle with whether or not to bring in a few photos or desk accessories was fraught with indecision, much like the decision to leave a toothbrush at your new paramour’s place. Would I be coming on too strong?! Also, you wonder when it’s time to have The Talk about where all this is going.

I actually like my current temp job enough to really hope that they end up offering me a permanent position, but as with all temp jobs, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Of course, if they don’t, I’ll be able to move on. I’ll learn to temp again. There are plenty of fishes in the sea.

Photo: Getty

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