Calling out to all you temps out there! I’d like to write all about this working life we call temping. I’ve been working temporary clerical and administrative assignments for a few years now, and at this point I’ve pretty much got used to it as a way of life. (I think it might even be a little psychologically difficult to settle into a permanent job at this point. (For the first week or so, maybe. You get used to anything, and after three days it’s like you’ve never been away.)
Just like with permanent jobs, there are upsides and downsides to temping. For someone who hasn’t got the appropriate temperament, the continual uprooting and lack of stability in short-term temping would probably present problems. One doesn’t, obviously, get to form enduring and reliable working relationships with colleagues, one’s hourly rate of pay may vary, and some assignments are easier to get to logistically than others. Some agencies are easier to deal with than others, and the continuous subtle tweaking of skillsets required might be annoying for someone who simply wants to know what their job requires and then to do it. Any one or combination of these things can be a dealbreaker for someone really better suited to a permanent position. For the temp, flexibility in all things is key!
But if it turns out that the temping lifestyle does suit you, there are lots of great things about it. The continous variety of experience can be a lot of fun, and it’s often an eye-opener seeing the similarities and differences in the way different organisations work – both in terms of function and structure, and of how the politics of the place pan out. (Temping is a great way of life for a people-watcher – you get to the point where you can identify a ‘type’ a mile away.) If you’re an extrovert who likes to mix with others and connect, you’ll certainly get the chance this way.
For your c.v., temping can be pretty useful. A continuous series of mid-term assignments in a variety of company types/departments/industries, mean that whatever permanent job you go for, you’ve probably got some relevant experience to point to in there. And as well as experience, you’re continually gaining contacts – networking away, both for personal satisfaction and potential future references and job tips/recommendations. Plus, working at a variety of posts mean you can hardly avoiding frequently picking up new skills, whether it’s tinkering with advanced spreadsheets or using your schoolgirl French on the eccentric Paris client who calls every forty minutes.
So, personally, I’m not complaining. Sure, in the present economy temping isn’t quite what it was. (That is to say, two years ago when an assignment finished I would contemplate telling my agency I was taking a week or two off and not to start calling me straight away with new assignments. Ha, catch anyone doing that now!) But I’m pretty sure things will pick up again, and there are still lots of things about temping that are great.