Like most of my millennial peers, I graduated from college during the Great Recession, and where I was living at the time, retail work was all that was available.
Three years ago, my husband’s job brought us to Silicon Valley. It was then that I stumbled upon temp openings and I decided to apply, not knowing what awaited me.
In the two-plus years that I have been working at temp jobs, I’ve gained sizable knowledge in various fields. I’ve worked with government entities, startups and established Fortune 500 companies. I have gone from being a retail worker with no other experience to a highly trained admin with a proven ability to work in constantly changing, 9-to-5 office environments.
I have gained the resourcefulness to adapt at a rapid pace to the next job, self-motivation, organizational skills, as well as time management, debugging and oral communication skills.
One role required significant self-motivation, as I was the only person organizing two years’ worth of sales orders. I spent weeks archiving files in an old warehouse. Another assignment reinforced my filing and time management skills when I joined a billing department that was two weeks behind schedule.
Nine months later, my proven dependability landed me an admin role at a nonprofit, where I managed the office calendar, ordered team lunches and directed mail to the proper teams. That was followed by an assignment at the front desk of a tech company, which elevated my oral communication skills and ability to multitask. I was required to seamlessly check in visitors, call management for interviews, accept incoming phone calls and packages. Through this role, I also learned I was better-suited for business-facing roles where I can work with databases, servers and those who maintain them. I aspire to become a system administrator.
I am proud of the work I’ve done in each of these assignments, and appreciate what temping has given me to get to this point. My interpersonal skills, flexibility and knowledge of different systems would not be as strong as they are today without temping.
However, working as a temporary employee hasn’t been without its downsides. The benefits are hardly first-rate and PTO is a rare offering. And it can be difficult in other ways as well. It’s not easy always being the new person trying to work into the fold while everyone else has their established relationships. And then, when you have managed to click with your new colleagues, it can be disheartening having to say goodbye a few months later. And sometimes, you like a company or department so much you envision yourself staying and growing there, only to have that assignment end as well.
But being exposed to so many types of environments has its pluses. I have learned a lot about the types of people and companies I would want to work for on a permanent basis, if choice were on my side. And if a situation is a poor fit, I know it’s not long-term and still give it my all, knowing I’m adding to my résumé along the way.
And then there is the unpredictable nature of temporary work. Not every workplace is looking for a full-time employee and not all assignments are lengthy. I sometimes work only part-time, or I have no work at all for a week or so before my next assignment comes in. Having such a variable paycheck also can be challenging when trying to develop and adhere to a household budget, but I have learned to be both flexible and creative.
As I look back, I am appreciative of the opportunities temp work has given, and would recommend it as a stepping stone on one’s career path. The skills that I have learned will carry over and make me a flexible employee no matter where I go next.