My first job, and my second, and my thirty-seventh were temp jobs.
My mom’s good friend worked in a temp agency, and even though you were supposed to be eighteen, they let me go out on jobs right after my sixteenth birthday.
I sold popcorn at pro football games.
I answered the phone at every insurance company in town.
I worked telethons and dental conventions.
And I worked a whole summer in the “Expediting” department. (I’m still not sure what it was we were expediting…but there was a LOT of paper involved.)
Mostly, I learned a lot about entry level jobs in pretty much every industry there is.
It was a good experience. While most of my friends were flipping burgers sporting yellow polyester uniforms, I was dressed in skirts, high heels and blazers with massive shoulder pads, looking like the Jr. Miss version of Diane Keaton in Baby Boom.
And the pay was better. Sometimes double what my fry-girl friends were pulling in.
At least once every couple months, some mid-level manager would offer me the permanent position of receptionist/file clerk/expediter, which was flattering, but rarely tempting.
There’s nothing, after all, that makes a high school girl’s desire to go to college stronger than a front-row peek into the life she would have without it.
Temping was a great job for me — I learned a lot about a bunch of different companies, met hundreds of professionals and not-so-professionals, learned how to fend off lecherous bosses long before my livelihood was at stake, and by the time I looked for my first grownup job, I already had a list of pretty interesting companies on my resume.
After college, I went into advertising, which, when I think of it, was a bit of a temp job itself. Every week (or day, or month) I’d work on a different client, or solve a different problem:
Golf spikes on Tuesday, Virginia is For Lovers on Wednesday, the Titantic on Thursday.
The best thing about temping is that it kept me afloat while I was looking for my first copywriting job, and has provided a wealth of characters, settings and fodder for my work so far.
I only need to look into my memory to conjure up an office drone, an insurance salesman, or a professional mascot.
Pretty good on-the-job training for a writer.
14 Replies to “It’s Only Temporary by Deb Lisa Daily”
Great post, Lisa! I did a lot of temping over the years too and while the jobs themselves were rarely interesting, the window into people’s lives certainly was.
I had a few interesting temp jobs over the years — I worked for months for a mom and pop mail order company that operated a 2 million dollar company out of their spare bedroom (shipping was in the garage) with their baby daughter playing nearby. It was a great lesson at 17, that your job could (should!) fit around your life, instead of the other way around.
Great training for being a writer indeed! And yes, nothing is so inspiring to stay in school as learning what kind of jobs are out there if you don’t. I say this as a former high school dropout who learned very quickly that zero education = crappy dead end jobs.
You’re so right, and good for you for going back to finish your education! I read somewhere that a huge number of high school dropouts are actually at the high end of the IQ scale — they’re just bored out of their minds, and figure they’ll be better off working.
So sad that many of our best and brightest have their brains frappéd by our education system…
Thanks for the great comment!!
Lisa, I’m extrapolating that you’re telling me I’m at the high end of the IQ scale – thank you. 😛 I still like to call myself a high school dropout (never did bother to finish that part of the education) with a University Education. I mean, really – I never would have used the word “extrapolating” if I hadn’t gotten that degree.
Your inference is correct. Extrapolate away 🙂
I envy you the experience. When I hit the job market I had a useless degree and janitorial experience. Not a good combination.
I think your experience is certainly one a lot of people share — my former roommate graduated with a history degree and her only job experience was working as a lifeguard. After graduation, she spent about four years in customer service at the power company…
She did eventually find a job she loved, but her years at the power company felt like a middle-class girl’s version of doing hard time
Lisa, what a terrific education you received about what the real world is really like. Your mom had a great idea as well as a good friend and you took advantage of it all. In reality, you were doing “internships” while still in high school and, yes, that experience will always serve you well. Fascinating.
Thanks so much! I was really lucky, and hope my kids will be able to have the same experience when they’re in high school 🙂
The downside, of course, is this: I’m a grown woman who does not know how to operate a fry machine…
Tragic 🙂 Maybe I could sign up for one of those fantasy camps at Hamburger University…
Those fry machines scare me anyhow. Anything involving hot oil=steer clear, IMO!
I always thought temping was a great way to make money without having to commit. I keep telling my SIL to do that instead of substitute teaching–pay’s way better and no one (well, usually not) sassing back at ya!
What a great variety of jobs! I think temping is indeed a great place to find writing fodder. I had a few temp gigs, and they were some of my favorites. 🙂
You’re right, it was a great experience 🙂
“And I worked a whole summer in the “Expediting” department. (I’m still not sure what it was we were expediting…but there was a LOT of paper involved.)” Thanks for the laugh, Lisa. I think I had the same job.
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