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.
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