As many of you regular readers may know, I had to leave my previous place of employment back in June, after which I ventured into the great unknown that is looking for new employment. Most of my search has taken me to the equally great unknown that is temporary and staffing agencies. By my count, I signed up with 7 such agencies during this summer, and it could have been 8 had I not actually gained regular employment through one of those agencies.
If you have been looking for your own new employment, perhaps you too have signed up with an agency or two. It’s part of what has been billed the “gig economy,” in which short-term or freelance work, as opposed to something that’s long-term and permanent, is prevalent. An employer may not want, need, or be capable of employing someone for a long time, so they’ll retain the services of a temporary staffing firm, who will do the legwork when it comes to searching for and compensating qualified workers.
In my last search for new employment 16 years ago, I had initially been hesitant in hitching my wagon to an employment agency, thinking that all they had was short-term (literally a week or two) work and no real avenues to a company I could make a career at. This year, my worries about such agencies were not as acute. Indeed, the postings for work I felt qualified for were accompanied by the words “position available through [insert name of employment agency here].” A few of them, however, also included the words “temp-to-hire,” the “hire” part being obvious music to my ears.
So, yes, in addition to searching on various online job boards, I did indeed add my name to not one or two but seven staffing agencies of various familiarity. To get a good gauge of my abilities, and as if to verify said abilities, nearly all of them put me through online testing to measure my appropriate skills and job knowledge, in addition to in-person screening interviews. And, yes, they did submit my name into consideration for roles their clients… to various degrees of interview success. (Let’s just say my interview skills are my weakest.)
Of the agencies I signed up with, one of them was really aggressive in searching out work I would be a good fit for. In fact, this very agency, who I won’t name, submitted my name and talents for the two assignments that have put money into my bank account after my departure from my last workplace. The first of those assignments (and I’ll explain why I use that word later) was with a supply company, where I did fill-in office work for a week and half while the person who regularly did that work was on vacation. It was a role I quickly became comfortable with.
The week after that role ended, that same employment agency put me on a “temp-to-hire” assignment, one with another business in a totally different industry from that first role (I’ll say it’s a very “charitable” organization and leave it at that). This role came literally all of a sudden to me: One afternoon, the agency rep said, “Hey, there’s this position I think you’ll be a good fit for, and they want to interview you today!” And with literally an hour to spare after finishing a previous interview, I rushed home, looked up information on this company, made the drive to their office, sat down with the chief financial officer(!) to discuss the position and my skills… and apparently impressed her enough that the next day, the employment agency called me back and said they wanted me to join them. “Yeah, they’re willing to overlook your lack of phone experience that you were honest about,” the agency rep told me.
While I quickly got into a comfortable yet challenging routine in that prior role, this new role thus far has been mostly challenges and not enough comfort. I think part of it was that this role doesn’t seem to have a set daily routine, i.e. do this task first, then the next one and on and on. I’ve had only cursory work on the two main roles in this assignment. And while another role is that of contacting customers regarding payments, that particular aspect isn’t what I’m worried about the most right now. Rather it’s an impression I’m gaining that the chief financial officer(!) expects me to know every in and out of this assignment before the the person I’m replacing (apparently also a temp) leaves in about six weeks time. No, they haven’t said so, but it’s the tone in the CFO’s voice and the occasional aside that’s left me with the thought of uh oh, they want me to know everything? But I don’t know everything.
At least I’ve confided in another person at this company my concerns, someone who has been with this company for almost a year. That person appears to be very understanding, reassuring me that it’s okay not to know exactly how to do this or that. And I hope the CFO(!) will be understanding over time; she’s planning to get together with me sometime this week or next, when we’ll discuss all I’ve learned in the role so far, what I’ve let to pick up on, and my concerns about the role. Hopefully, they will be empathetic and at least understanding when she hears my concerns.
Am I anxious about this assignment yet? Yes, I admit I am. Am I trying to remain confident through all this? Oh, sure, I need to do so despite the uneasiness. Am I nervous about things not panning out? Yes, for there’s no guarantee any agency will have something ready for me should the CFO ask the agency, “eh, we don’t want to hire him on regularly; can you find someone else for us?”
But above all else, what I feel about this assignment and the one right before it, and especially so on this Labor Day, is… grateful. The time period from the time I had to leave my previous employer to my first temporary assignment was four weeks, but it felt like forever and a fortnight to someone who takes pride in giving their best 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. In those four weeks, there were quite a few seemingly promising leads that turned into dead ends, as well as much more than a few “thanks but we’re considering other candidates.” And just hearing the words “yes, we want you to work with us” meant so much to me… just as it has meant so much to others who spent seemingly forever to look for new employment, like my friend, J. Yep, just last week, J. finally got the call saying, “we want to hire you.” Weeks and months of the two of us wishing each other finally worked for both of us, and though we both have what are technically set-term work (it’s a year-long assignment for her), we’re both happy to have work to go to.
By the way, you may have noticed that I’ve used the word assignment and not job to describe the work I’m doing right now. I’m technically under the employment of the staffing agency and not the company I’m assigned to. I don’t know how long I will be at said company, or even if they’d want me permanently. And there’s the (unassured) possibility that something from some agency will await me if nothing pans out. That’s why it feels to me less like a job to go to on a daily basis and more like the assignment that it truly is.
But, again, it feels good to once again have a place that appreciates the talents I can provide and can offer me the opportunity to use same talents. On this Labor Day and every day, here’s hoping you can say the same.