Don’t Worry, It’s Only [Temp]orary

After quitting my job without having another one in place back in February, I was living off of the left over vacation time I had gotten paid upon departure (as well as my tax refund). Soon, though, I knew I would need to find something. Applying to dozens of jobs a day wasn’t working out for me and I decided to sign up with a temp agency to pick up work here and there so I could eat.

I was hesitant at first, I have never temped before and didn’t really know what to expect. Did I really want to be a disposable employee? And if anywhere I was placed at wanted to hire me, they would need to pay a large fee to the agency.

The evening after registering with the agency, the nice woman I met with gave me a call offering a position for a receptionist at a consulting firm located in the Prudential Tower for a couple of days. It was only $11/hour but I accepted, seeing how $11 an hour is better than no dollars an hour. It was a snowy and slushy Friday morning and I wore slacks and a button down blouse only to arrive and realize that they have casual Fridays. Nice. I was showed the ropes and somewhat thrown into it, but that was alright considering it was very quiet. Eerily, in fact. It was such a stark contrast from the stressful environment I was used to working at.

I ended up working there for two weeks until their full-time receptionist came back (she had hurt her knee). During that time, I noticed a few things. The first couple of days I was there, several people introduced themselves but many more walked by without so much as a glimpse of me over their shoulder. Perhaps that was rude but, hey, I thought, they know I’m a temp, why get to know me if I’m just going to leave? There were three or four people I was in frequent contact with seeing how they orchestrated and planned out food for meetings and who’s going where and when and I was to help out. There was also a member of the administrative staff, a new one each day, who relieved me for the short breaks I had. The woman who trained me relieved me for lunch.

I received three breaks during the day — two fifteen minute breaks (one in the morning, the other in the afternoon) and an hour for lunch. Having so many breaks and having them be so long was an incredibly foreign concept to me; usually I would work 12 hours and sneak out for a 15 minute lunch break. Here I was doing incredibly less yet was being relieved of my duties incredibly more. Why? Whoever had this job clearly had it made.

Whenever there were meetings (which was almost every day) I was encouraged to grab something to eat for now and some for later, which was amazing. People checked in with me to make sure I grabbed something. There was also a plethora of beer available and I was encouraged to take some of that home as well.

Eventually as people noticed me being there for more than a couple of days, they’d introduce themselves. Others simply asked how the woman I replaced was doing, as if I somehow knew who she was or anything about her. People would thank me for doing such a good job and I’d sit there smiling on the outside yet completely confused on the inside — I wasn’t doing anything of note. Answering the phone 10 times a day and directing a couple of people around isn’t much to praise someone over. I was never complimented at my old job and I did SO much for them. Did these people seriously have expectations that were that low?

One glorious, miraculous day, I received an email from one of the jobs I had applied at asking for a phone interview — MIT, of all places. I had applied there since I met all of the criteria; I had more than enough experience for what they were asking for, I had all the skills they sought, they didn’t say the applicant needed a degree, and I get along with people pretty well. However, it’s MIT, and at a nuclear reactor no less. I NEVER thought in a million years I’d hear anything back from them, I didn’t even have a background in science, and yet low and behold they were the only place I had heard from.

I spoke with the administrative officer on the phone and she asked me a few questions and gave me a few details about the position. I was to replace a woman who was retiring at the end of the month and would be coming on to help out with a couple of administrative projects and be the overall point of contact for tours and visitors. I said that was awesome and yes, I was interested. We scheduled an in-person interview for the following week. The place I was temping at was more than enthusiastic that I got an interview and offered to be references if I needed any.

The day of my interview was dreadful. Snowy, icy, slushy, a complete mess. I left during my lunch break and went over to the building I would eventually work in and rang the doorbell. Nothing. I tried to peer in but couldn’t see anything, everything was pretty dark inside. There weren’t really any windows so I kept ringing the doorbell. I was grateful for having gotten there early, eventually a tough looking guy let me into the building and I looked around confused. I wasn’t given any directions on where to go, they said someone would be there to both let me in and tell me what to do. Apparently due to the inclement weather, not many people were around. I was led upstairs and waited in a room for the people who were going to interview me. The woman I had spoken to on the phone didn’t come into work either so she phoned in on a conference call.

I was very upfront with them about the interview; I haven’t had one for a job that wasn’t folding shirts at a department store before and when looking online at how to answer certain interview questions, I scoffed. They all sounded so robotic and fake and I wasn’t going to bother trying to memorize something or try to sugar coat myself. No one would benefit from that — how would they be able to tell if I was a good match for them? I guess you could say that was a stupid thing to do and that it made me look unprepared. They seemed to appreciate my honesty, though, and the interview lasted about an hour. I was making jokes and letting my humor come through so they’d know what they were dealing with and, yes, I warned them that I’m a crazy cat lady. I bid them farewell and went back to where I was temping.

Eventually, I was no longer needed at the consulting firm and was yet again unemployed. I hadn’t heard back from MIT and assumed I totally blew it. One day, however, I got an email from the administrative officer wanting to set up a time for me to finally meet with her in person. I thought, hey, that’s good, they haven’t forgotten about you and maybe this means you’re closer to getting the job. I met with her on April 1st and it was a gorgeous spring day. I was extremely early, so I waited on the sidewalk in the sun for a few minutes before heading in.

This time, when I rang the doorbell I was greeted by an incredibly nervous looking girl. I said hello and that I was here for a meeting. She told me to hold on and tried to work out the phone. Seeing how she wasn’t of retiring age, I assumed that the woman who usually worked there was already gone. Did they hire this girl instead? Were they calling me over for a meeting just to let me down?

Eventually the woman I was meeting with came down to get me and as we walked to her office she explained that the nervous girl at the desk was a temp. We get to her office and sit down, she discusses with me that she called my references and what they said, that she and the other employees who interviewed me did several pow-wows on who to choose for the position, and that I was one of four finalists.

I was elated, I’m never a finalist for anything! I asked her what that meant going forward and she said that they had already decided who was best for the position. All four of us had extremely different personalities and ways of carrying ourselves, but they liked my personality the best.

They had decided to choose me, and she handed me over an offer letter to read over. I could barely read it, I wanted to jump up and down and shout for joy. I accepted the position and she gave a sigh of relief, saying that they really don’t want this temp to last much longer. Apparently they gave her the tasks of answering the phone and letting people in the door and she wasn’t doing a good job at it. I suddenly realized why everyone where I temped was so grateful to have me, apparently temps are notorious for not doing a good job at all and not caring to do one since they aren’t going to be at that position very long anyway. The ironic part, however, is that after I left, offer letter in hand, the temp applied for the position I was just given when it was very clear to her that it wasn’t available for her to apply for. You know, since that makes total sense.

I left the building grinning from ear to ear, super pumped that I was finally employed and at MIT of all places! I called and texted a few people then put up a status update for everyone else. Me working at a nuclear reactor is a hilarious concept, but I was still a little hurt when people were commenting, laughing and saying “yeah, right, good one.” Then I remembered, it was April Fool’s Day.

I’m still at MIT and have absolutely no plans to leave any time soon. Looks like they’re stuck with me for a while 🙂

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