Friday, July 31, 2009

Temp Life

It’s been challenging finding summer work this year. The government funds programs that incent workplaces to hire students during the summer season – but forces these companies to demand that their student employees are between fifteen and twenty nine years old. So basically, I’m too old to qualify for the majority of student jobs. (What? Really? But I’m still a student! Doesn’t that count for anything?)

Having spent the majority of my adult life in the Corporate World, I figured that was my best bet in terms of hourly wage. Now, if the economy were better, I could have lined up a project management contract and reeeeally made some good cash, but most companies just aren’t investing in projects right about now. So I have settled for the next best thing, providing administrative support on a temporary basis. It’s easy, it’s low stress, and it beats the hell out of Starbucks. Is it totally beneath me, intellectually? Sure. But who cares?

It’s funny how people treat you when you’re the receptionist, or the mail room clerk. They assume you’re a total idiot. And it’s even weirder when they know nothing about you. Like for example, nobody at my current assignment knows that I’ve been trained in Six Sigma and can run a hell of a tight project. Or that I’ve built a department from the ground up, including the key performance metrics...and built the reporting capabilities to extract the key performance metrics. Or that I’ve delivered training to hundreds. Or that I’ve managed and coached countless employees into promotions. But whatever.

“Do you know how to book a meeting room in Outlook?" the sales representatives ask me condescendingly, "Did Janice show you how to do that?”

They hesitate before asking me; they're uncertain, almost expecting me to have no clue. And then, their elation when they find out that I can do it for them! Wow…as if it’s that difficult. They’re basically expecting me to be a total moron. A bit insulting, for sure, but I’m not divulging anything. As a temp, you can please people just by being of average intelligence, their standards are so low.

I’ve been so bored on the majority of my assignments, that I go above and beyond on every single task and essentially blow people away with my responsiveness. I do it because it gives me something to do. I provide tracking numbers on every package sent out. I stock every photocopier in the office full of paper. I tidy all the office supplies. Just to give me something to do. I wonder how people actually do these jobs full time. I’d go crazy.

On a temporary basis, though, it’s fun. It’s like I’m on my own reality TV show. I go in for a week, meet the people, watch how they do things, do the tasks I’m hired to do, and then I’m gone. I judge their processes, the ones I’m involved in, and think of ways I would make them better. I notice how much money they waste, how much time things take, how fulfilled the employees are. That’s the Six Sigma in me, I guess.

But nobody suspects I’m noticing these things. Or that I even have the capacity to understand them and what they mean to The Big Picture. After all, I am just a temp.

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