Familiarity breeds contempt, or so the old saying goes. Stay at the same job for too long, and no matter how much you liked it to begin with or how many good qualities it has, eventually the good qualities can start to pale in comparison to your co-workers' quirks, your boss's procrastination, and those other annoying work problems that just won't go away. If grinning and bearing it isn't working for you anymore, working for a temp agency on a short or even long-term basis can be a great way to get the change of pace you need and see what else is out there.
If your current job is stressing you out and there's no end in sight, applying to several temp agencies will help secure another source of income and allow you to quit after someone has found you other work. This way, you won't have to take the financial risk of quitting without knowing where your next paycheck is coming from. In the meantime, you might be less likely to storm out of work in frustration one day if you know you've put a plan to move on into action.
Once you've escaped, you'll probably find that temping can be very relaxing compared to being a permanent employee. As someone new to a company, especially if you're only going to be there for a few days and aren't looking to get hired long-term, you'll probably have very little responsibility, which can be a very freeing feeling, especially if you had a lot of responsibility at your last job. Sometimes you'll be filling in for someone who is on vacation and you'll really only be there as an emergency backup, which will give you almost no work to do and plenty of time to catch up on your reading and hone your Free Cell skills -- or even search for longer-term employment if you so desire. It's true -- you really can get paid to do nothing. If your finances can support a bit of instability and possibly a pay cut, there's no reason to rush from temping back to a permanent, full-time job. Just enjoy the break while you experience different work environments, gain new skills (sometimes), and meet new people.
Temping has a different social aspect to it than permanent jobs. Most people at the company you're temping at will probably ignore you once they realize that you're not going to stick around, which makes it easy to retreat to your own little world each day. For better or worse, if you're at a larger company where people are used to not recognizing everyone in their office, you may not get so much as a hello from anyone. If you hate office gossip and like to keep your work life separate from your personal life, this setup can be ideal. On the other hand, if you're the type who loves to socialize, temping can be lonely, but given your personality, you'll probably be able to turn the experience into a great way to meet new people.
Temping allows a great deal of flexibility while generally still providing you with a livable income. As a temp, you can work only until you've saved up enough for your next vacation, then take off for two months to relax, travel, or write your novel. Getting time off for a doctor's appointment or your kid's school play is s snap, too. Though you won't be getting any paid vacation (unless you work under the same temp agency for a long time), you will be able to get large chunks of time off between assignments, which is something you'll be hard pressed to do at any regular job, especially if you haven't been working there for a long time.
If you want to go back to school part-time, sometimes it can be easier to work temp jobs into your schedule than a permanent part-time job, especially around times when you have lots of studying to do. If you've been in the work force for a while and are itching to head back to school full-time, you can always pick up a temp job here and there when your funds are running low or your workload is lighter. During the summer, you can acquire full-time temp jobs and save up for the next term.
If you are a jack-of-all-trades or a renaissance woman and sticking with the same job for too long drives you crazy, chances are you don't receive any benefits from the companies you work for or you have frequent gaps in your coverage. If you were to move from job to job under the umbrella of a temp agency, there is a good chance that you would eventually qualify for the temp agency's benefits. For most people, the benefits offered by temp agencies might as well not be there, because most people find full time positions and are out from under the temp agency's wings long before they ever reach the number of hours required to qualify for the agency's benefits. But as a permatemp, you can not only receive more consistent benefits, which gives you greater financial security, but often better benefits than some companies offer their full-time employees because most temp agencies are quite large. Temp agencies routinely offer health insurance, dental insurance, and 401k's. Full-time, permanent employees at smaller companies, on the other hand, often only get health insurance.
Of course, along with the reduced responsibility and commitment come a few drawbacks. Temping can be incredibly freeing, or it can be unbearably dull -- you'll often do menial work like filing, copying, or answering phones for hours on end. And while you'll often get to change assignments and therefore try out new office environments, different jobs, and different commutes, it can be stressful be an outsider in an office full of strangers and to not know where you're going or what your day will be like at the start of each new assignment.
On the other hand, when you're new to a company and don't know its procedures and policies, it's easier to get away with making mistakes. Your responsibilities will often be minimal because many companies seem to assume that temps aren't very bright, so if you want to keep your workload light, just don't disprove their initial assumptions. All those things you have to do when you're trying to hold down a permanent job, like going the extra mile, asking for more work, being on your best behavior, and putting up with nonsense generally aren't necessary to keep you employed as a temp. You also won't have to work overtime as a temp because you'll be getting paid hourly. Most companies are loathe to pay time and a half.
If you hate the creeping level of responsibility that comes with staying at the same job too long, need to keep your schedule open, love to travel, want to spend more time with your kids, hate overtime, or don't want to be tied down for any other reason at all, working through a temp agency can give you the flexibility you need to make your life more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Photo by Paul Worthington
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