These past few months while finishing my masters thesis, I’ve been working for a temp agency to earn a little extra cash. With flexible hours, and the chance to get to know the town I’ve just recently moved to a little better, the experience has, for the most part, been worthwhile. Being that I’d never worked for a temp agency, there are a few things I’ve discovered worth noting:
1) The vernacular of working for a temp agency.Despite that fact that it is not listed on Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, in this industry, “temping” is a verb. What surprised me was how often I was referred to as “girl” (or “girls” if I was in a group.) This applied to all the female temps, and it did not matter the age of the employees (I had co-workers who were in their 70’s.)Hopefully, this stemmed from the term Kelly Girl® coined by William Russell Kelly, founder of Kelly Services, who started a temp agency by loaning his employees to other businesses, and not from straight misogyny.
Even my boyfriend, who worked for the company as a gravedigger, was a Kelly Girl®.
2) It takes more effort to apply to a temp agency than to regular jobs.
Yes, it is expected that there are various aptitude tests that are required to determine your skill level (10-key, typing, computer skills etc), but the most difficult test I performed in securing temporary employment was my ability to troubleshoot the online submission of my resume and application. As a Mac user, I had to shuffle between browsers and try to edit my scrambled information before the form timed-out. It took me close to two hours to submit my application.
Before I entered the world of temping, I had worked in the administration offices at a hospital where, in the year 2010, much of the organization was still using Microsoft Office 97. Let’s just say during the two hours I spent filling out the temp agency’s online application, I realized that even Office 97 was more advanced than this process.
Having had three assignments thus far, two of them have required very little in the way of a marketable skill. I was literally paid $10 hour to say variations on “hello” while offering to stamp hands, scan name tags, or check someone off a list.
The manager of the temp agency that employs me asked that I recruit my friends. She’d heard so many excuses from people who had begged to work –“My car broke,” “I’m sick today,” “I have a family emergency,”–that she was having trouble filling the jobs she had open. While I’m sure that many temporary employees have real car trouble, or occasionally get sick with a real illness, I got the impression that there are also many who do not.
I’m curious to see if I continue to be called “Girl,” or if the positions I am assigned to will continue to require limited skills. Maybe in the future I’ll have a job where my supervisor knows my name, and cares that my skills go beyond how to stamp people’s hands. And hopefully the job won’t be temporary.