Hey “Girl”: Life of a Temp

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.

 3) All you have to do is show up. 

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.

note: This piece originally appeared on another blog owned by the author.

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