In the larger offices, no doubt, you will run into other temps who are, if I may be so hip, just here for the now. Emotions will mingle at times like these, and depending on who you are and who they appear to be, you may experience a number of conflicting feelings.
Hey, the faces may not be familiar but you’ve immediately got something in common: you’re toe-to-toe on the bottom rung. When two people meet and find out that they’re both temps, they will probably both break into a knowing smile. It’s like if you’re vacationing in, say, France, and you meet an American. Suddenly you share roots, a common bond, even if you’re nothing alike. If you are in a particularly rough or trying office environment, you might even spontaneously embrace and burst into tears (also known to happen in France).
Probably the next bit of information to be exchanged will be the name of the Temp service you work for. Even if you’ve never heard of their service, you will still say: "Ohhh... I’ve heard they’re good," and they will say something similar about yours.
This is about as far as I’ve ever gotten in this feeling because a few things invariably happen at this point. First of all, the other person always seems much happier than I do, more enthusiastic and excited to be there. They seem like they really love it and all the things promised by the (other) temp literature are coming true for them. Now, they may just be so used to being asked about temping and lying about how much they like it, but there is a small chance that this, for them, really is their dream job. This can often lead to:
Why is he so happy? Why does he get to work on the fun side of the building? Why does he get invited to the bar for drinks after work? Is he making more money than I am? Is his temp service better than mine? Is he making more friends than I am? Is his tie nicer than mine? Why does everyone know his name already?
This sort of thing leads straight to:
Here we’re getting into dangerous waters. Particularly for me or others like me, competing with fellow temps is not just a bad idea, it’s also pointless. I never even wanted to find permanent work at any of the companies I temped for, so why bother competing? I really don’t know. But in between games of FreeCell, I would start to wonder: Is he better than I am? Does he do a better job? Are people saying: "Boy, I wish Chris the Temp was more like Jimmy the Temp"?
Right about then, I’d start working harder, doing my best to get everything right, being pleasant and personable, arriving early and working late, and being the all around most helpful and competent temp there ever was. I would get complements on my work ethic, job offers galore, and praise from the highest levels, yet beneath it all I would feel cheap and worthless, because I had betrayed my fundamental being. I had put my petty jealousies ahead of my laziness and apathy, and I could never feel good about that. Welcome to:
Well, you had to get there sooner or later. You may begin to hate the other temps you work with. Why? Because by being better than you they make you look bad, by being worse they make temps in general look bad, they get more attention, they seem genuinely happy, they smell, they look a lot like some kid who beat you up once... all are valid reasons to hate them. The common thread you once shared has since frayed and snapped over weeks of growing unpleasantness, or been neatly clipped in two by some singular incident, remark, or sidelong glance. While you might feel compelled to to stab them in the back or otherwise ruin their reputation and chances of permanent hire, you shouldn’t take any such action unless you are certain you can get away with it.
All of this aside, chances are you will make friends with some of your fellow temps, and even after you or they have left the assignment, you may continue to see them around town or keep in touch via company or personal e-mail. I myself have kept company with a large number of temps, both on the job and in seedy bars, and in times both wonderful and trying, they have always been there with an ear to scream in and a shoulder to lean drunkenly on. Still, the corporate world is much like a battleground. There are casualties. Alas, so many fine, honorable temps are no longer with us, and I would like to take this time to pay my respects to the fallen.
Aimee Dexter: Portland, Oregon. Hired permanently, August, 1998
Roger Dowdey, Portland, Oregon. Went back to college, October, 1998
Stan Lambourne, Portland, Oregon. Used the word "paradigm", was dragged off by federal agents, December, 1998.
Jovy Blume: San Francisco, California. Hired permanently, January, 1999
Kenneth Watkins: Oakland, California. Missing in Action, March, 1999
Debra Thompson: Austin, Texas. Will not return my e-mails, April, 1999
Lauren Thayer: Pleasanton, California. Acquired court order against me, May, 1999
Alan Stead, Chicago, Illinois. I made him up just now, March, 2000
One more thing to keep in mind is that temp agencies usually offer bonuses for recruiting temps. In this time of prosperity, it seems that there are jobs galore and not enough temps to fill them, so may agencies will pay to if you send a warm body their way. Tell a friend to sign up with your agency, and if they list you as their referral and work forty hours or so, you’ll get a nice fifty to a hundred bucks. So cash in on your friends, that’s what they’re there for.
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