With a new fresh year in front of me and time on my hands as I’m between assignments right now, I have pondered upon a few things. These are the main reasons why I love working as a temp:
I learn a lot. In an ordinary employment I would learn maybe two business systems and that’s about it, but as a temp I learn something new with every customer company I meet. After six years with Manpower I can work in SAP, Oracle, Lawson, Contempus, TEM, Unistar, Visma, Agresso and others. I have also learned to make it snappy.
When I start a new assignment I usually find a stressed and frustrated customer with tons of work that has piled up for some reason or other and they want it dealt with on the double. There is seldom time for fancy introduction programs. It’s like when a 5-year old drops a caterpillar into an ant heap to see if it will do something interesting. Things can get far too interesting for my taste sometimes, but have I learned to be in the air after a minimum of runway.
I get to compile a lot of documentation, which is okay because I love to write. When I arrive at a new place it happens more often than not that work descriptions and instruction manuals are missing or out of date. The systems I’m supposed to work with are often “self-explanatory” i.e. training cost money and therefore people have to learn stuff using the classic method Trial & Terror. Usually there is one person who knows the systems well and the first thing I do is to compile a quick reference guide for myself. I do this on the explain-as-if-I-were-six-year-old level. Before the end of my mission I rewrite and illustrate the guide and hand it over to the customer who is usually very grateful for the job as they now have a training manual fit for new recruits. How I love to see the smile of a happy customer. That’s what we all live for, right?
Temping is good at various stages of one’s career. I always meet younger colleagues who got their first job as temps and then got hired by the customer company. This is win-win. The youngster gets work experience and the company gets to test a possible new recruit. Older professionals like me get a chance to wind down the career and even to continue working part-time after retirement. The tasks may not be as challenging as before, but personally I feel it’s nice to be able to forget the job as soon as I step out of the office. Before, I was always on the job in my mind and worked 60-hour weeks. This is not what I want to do in my sixties. On the other hand I know what I know so the customer gets a management consultant for the price of an accounting assistant. They rarely complain about this.
You never get stuck in one place. Some assignments may be nicer than others, but when I’m in a place where I’m not too happy I can still relax and do my very best because I know it will end and I will go somewhere else. Moreover, I’m never expected to get involved in the Machiavellian schemes that seem to exist in any workplace larger than three people. This is a very good thing. I can also avoid conferences, parties and outdoor events like softball on a muddy field in pouring rain as I’m not into those things anyway. After eight hours in a loud office landscape I need to rest my ears and charge my batteries. Being an introvert, I do this best in the quiet of my home.
As a Manpower employee (in Sweden) I feel a lot safer than I would in any ordinary position. It happens now and then that my colleagues at the customer company get called to meetings where the management talks about efficiency. Everybody knows what that means. Layoffs. It hurts me to see the fear in their eyes because I know that those who eventually are told to leave will end up at the Swedish Public Employment Service. There, they will be placed in front of a crappy computer and expected to find a new position as best they can while the Service is constantly on their backs to check if they have broken any rule that can get them kicked from their meager unemployment benefits. When my mission ends Manpower goes into top gear to find me a new one. They know that I’m their money and they make every possible effort to find a good spot for me. Meanwhile, I can relax because I have a 150-hour guaranteed monthly salary even when between assignments. This is outright luxurious and I feel blessed. I can’t pick and choose of course, but my boss always confers with me before I go to a new place and I feel that my needs and ideas are listened to. Last fall I asked for part time assignments as I want more time for myself as the event horizon (death) comes closer. I’m employed on a full-time basis, but my boss still managed to get me on part time during my last assignment. It might not happen with the next one, but she knows my wishes and will fulfill them if possible. I couldn’t ask for a better job.