A Week in the Life of a Temp

This is the first Friday afternoon I’ve had to myself in over a week, and I never thought I’d miss it so much. That’s right– I’m finally bringing home the bacon again. Or rather, enough bacon (money) to cover my ridiculous (dry-cured, unsmoked, streaky) bacon purchasing habit.

I did a bit of freelance stuff earlier, but love getting to call it a day at 4:30. And taking too many breaks to do important things, like re-hang laundry that blew away in the wind, listen to RIlo Kiley, eat waffles, and not eat the vegetables I bought at the Headington farmers’ market.

I’ve been temping at a field marketing agency for a little over a week now, with a contract that’s very much up in the air (originally stated as 1-2 weeks). My first day, I was thrown to the wolves (that’s a saying, right?) and hit the phones with little idea of what I was doing. But working alongside a very friendly and supportive team, I picked up quite a bit of knowledge very quickly. Probably more quickly than at any other job. It’s a recruiting gig, so we are screening CV’s with quickie phone interviews to find suitable candidates for face-to-face interviews. The roles I’m recruiting for are not at all glamorous (or maybe they are, depending on your interests): cigarette salespeople and holiday-season alcohol merchandising. A friend asked if I have a moral objection to this, and I almost felt bad saying no. It’s a job to be filled, and someone will do it, and it’s not really up to me to judge.

The most surprising (and difficult) thing I’ve learned: people lie. Although I’m pretty sarcastic and at times pessimistic, I still hold out great hope for people and don’t understand when they do something wrong. Let’s not mention that I do things wrong all the time, but I do try to be honest. Anyway, one guy told me he’s had a passion for [cigarette brand] since age 17, and has wanted to work for this company forever, etc. And I thought, “sure, why not?” The next day, my boss helped me see why this guy was clearly bullshitting me.

Also, people like to ramble. I don’t mind listening to people talk, but have really had to take control of the conversation on too many occasions, which I find challenging. “Okay, when exactly was that?” “Sorry, let me rephrase the question.” I’ve also learned the difference between great answers, okay answers, and just plain terrible answers. It’s a good skill that I’ll use in my future interviews (e.g. the one coming up on Monday, for a 3-month admin job), but it’s difficult not being able to get back to the applicants and tell them how they could improve next time. I think most of them probably could, if they stopped trying so hard to answer with what they think we want to hear, and just think about the questions logically.

And sure, I do find it a little ironic that I’m screening job applications while I’ve been unable to find a steady job myself for a few months. There are a few differences, though: 1.) I don’t have children or a house, and therefore am not desperate for cash, 2.) I want to be a little more selective in whatever I do next, because we spend a lot of our time at work and…well, I’m idealistic and really want to do something I feel good about. I know this is a pretty high expectation and I’ll probably have to compromise a bit, eventually. 3.) I actually read the job descriptions. Final lesson learned in the past week: some people honestly just hit the “apply” button hundreds of times in a day, and then have no idea why you’re calling them regarding their interest in the role.

There are lots of other temps at this company. I guess it makes sense, since the work is fairly easy and doesn’t require much training, or long-term commitment. It’s been really great to interact with new people, and I love finding out more about where they come from, why they’re here, and what drives them. One guy owns his own business, which he’s building up on the side, and another woman was a former marketing manager, who’s having trouble finding work after taking a break to raise her child. And even my “boss” has faced the same post-interview rejections as I have– “we think you’d be bored at this job and need more responsibility.” Many employers talk about work-life balance, but I’m not convinced they know what it actually means.

Enough rants– the sun is still shining, and because I’m actually home instead of being stuck on the bus for another hour, I think I’ll go for a run.

P.S. I scribbled down some notes on the aforementioned bus that I wanted to share:

1. I always thought the “Martin’s” down the street from me, a newsagent, was owned by a guy named Martin. But there’s a Martin’s in Thame, so I suppose it’s a chain. I feel deceived by the mom-and-pop feel, and am glad I never called the owner Martin.

2. There’s a barbershop called Sherlock Combs in Thame. I don’t think I need to say anything else here, but I am thinking of sending them some fanmail.

3. Riding the bus makes me feel sick (probably because I read every.single.time, throwing motion-sickness caution to the wind), but I do love looking out the window at the beautiful countryside. Sometimes, I pretend I live out there, with a few chickens and a garden. Then I remember that I have a black thumb and would have to clean chicken poop, and come back to reality.

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