Tag Archives: temping

Job patience is my virtue…

After a short blogging break to deal with some important family stuff, I’m back!

Since my last post, I have struck lucky and returned (for the fourth time!) to my favourite temping haunt at the Exhibition Company. Even luckier than that, I’m there ’til Christmas (which means the family is guaranteed a pressie under the tree) AND I’m doing interesting marketing work for a lovely boss too!

On top of all that, I have an interview for a full-time, permanent post as a Content Co-ordinator for a fashion brand – yes I know, excitingly, I have a shot at a genuinely-interesting-job-with-a-future! In the past, people have laughed or thrown me a pitying look when I tell them I’m temping until a job I really want to do comes along. Why is it so naive to believe that your work life can be as enjoyable as your home life?!?

If this year has taught me one thing in particular, it’s to seize opportunities as they come along. That way, you have no regrets and can cherish every brilliant moment you experience. Which was exactly my line of thinking when a small lump sum unexpectedly came my way. It has been sensibly sitting in my savings account as emergency bill money should the temping dry up. Now I’m employed ’til Christmas, it has transformed itself into a wonderful down payment for a Florida villa, for two weeks over my birthday in March… 😮


The fax of life…

Thankfully, I managed to survive my two temping weeks at the law firm (see last blog entry), and Top Dog Solicitor even knew my name by the last day! My new “Tonight Matthew” temping role is that I’m pretending to be… a Data Entry Clerk! It’s just for the week and it’s pretty simple work once you memorise the computer processes needed. My whole day is summed up in this circle of activity;

Print invoices – print checklist – write and print out fax headers – send faxes (around 100 at a time) – staple fax confirmations – enter into computer and repeat!

It’s a bit mind numbing (although I welcome it after the stress fest of the past two weeks!), but it actually makes me appreciate that when I eventually land my dream Copywriter/Web Editor job (wherever that may be!), I will be lucky enough to indulge the creative side of my brain on a daily basis.

And of course the hardest part of working here (get your hankies out folks), is the out-of-town location… The Starbucks staff in town must be wondering what on earth has happened to the one shot skinny latte girl this week!

I’m on the wrong side of the law…

My three-month temping stint at the exhibition company has ended which was really sad; I’d got to know an entire floor of new people and there were 17 of us at my farewell pub lunch (and there were only three people I didn’t actually know there lol!) My agency had a new booking for me a few days later at a small law firm, so my latest “Tonight Matthew” moment is that I’m pretending to be… a Legal Secretary! The agency tells me I will be working alongside one other Proper Legal Secretary.

I arrive on my first day… 

Me: “Hi, I’m filling in as your Legal Secretary.”
Proper Legal Secretary: “Hi, have you done legal before?”
Me: “No, didn’t the agency tell you that?”
Proper Legal Secretary: (face has visibly fallen) “No, we haven’t heard much from them but we thought we were getting an experienced temp.”

Fact – pretending to be a Legal Secretary sucks when the law firm you temp at was expecting a Proper Legal Secretary with experience! I’ve hardly had time to breathe since starting, the audio typing, ringing phone and visiting clients are constant, then throw in the emergency typing that needs to be done before the post goes. You have to know how to apportion fees properly so that people get charged (the maximum possible), and this isn’t obvious to a non-legal temp. There are two Proper Legal Secretaries  on holiday so the one that’s left is trying to pick up all their slack and keep me right. 

 After three stressful days (for both of us), I visited my Agency Lady…
Me: “Agency Lady, I think they were expecting a Proper Legal Secretary to temp for them and if you have one available, I’m quite happy to let them take this on.”
Agency Lady: “No, I never said that, I will ring Proper Legal Secretary and see how you are getting on!”
Agency Lady: “Blah, blah, blah, (because you know what agencies are like!) Biscotti came in because she was a bit worried that she wasn’t being as much help as you needed?”
Proper Legal Secretary: (I’m interpreting what I can’t hear) “Yes it would have been ideal if she had actually had any legal experience but she is doing ok.”
Agency Lady: “Blah, blah, blah well you know it’s really difficult to get actual Proper Legal Secretaries for temping and when you do, they want to charge you a fortune for being there…”
Agency Lady listens to what Proper Legal Secretary is saying and gives me the thumbs up while I’m standing there, wishing the ground would swallow me up.
Agency Lady: “Yes, well she’s a really bright girl so I’m sure she will be fine.” (i.e. “We have no one else to give you!”)
Agency Lady puts the phone down with a smile on her face.
Agency Lady: “Yes everything’s fine, she says you have picked up the computer system quickly so don’t worry!”
Interpretation – “Don’t leave, you are better than nothing!” 

The man I am Secretary for is the Top Dog Solicitor, (who after 4 days, still doesn’t know my name!) He is one of these old, scary, unapproachable, serious, busy type of men, and I feel like a stupid kid whenever I have to speak to him. I get the impression he also thought he was getting a Proper Legal Secretary to cover as he will say, “Do you know how to write a brief?” or “Can you open this in Laserform?” My stock answer is “No, but I’ll ask Proper Legal Secretary!”
Most embarrassingly (so far!), he rang down for me yesterday to ask me to bring up a file I had been working on.
Top Dog Solicitor: “Err, (still can’t remember my name) can you come up and bring the Cool file with you?”
Me: “OK, did you say Cool file?” (I didn’t recognise the name at all)
Top Dog Solicitor: “Yes, the Cool file.”
Me: (panicking as I know I haven’t worked on a file of that name) “Is that spelled C-O-O-L?”
Top Dog Solicitor: ‘Click’ – he had already hung up before I finished spelling out the word.
Straight away the phone rings and as Proper Legal Secretary is tied up on another call, I have to take it and am stuck there for 5 minutes, still wondering what the hell this ‘Cool’ file is.
I grabbed a random pile of files I had been working on and took them upstairs.
Me: “Sorry, I got held up on the telephone. I’m afraid I can’t find the Cool file.”
Top Dog Solicitor: (Looks at me as though I’m stupid) “But you typed this letter to him today?”
He shows me the letter addressed to MR COLE
Me: “Oh, COLE!” (frantically looks through pile I had brought up, and thank heavens, it was there!)  Just when I’d thought that I’d got the knack of understanding the southern accent… (He’s also quite posh so I think that added to my confusion!)

So, I’m eagerly counting down the five days left – I don’t know who will be more relieved when this ends – me or Proper Legal Secretary..!

Watch out! Invisible temp about…

It appears that working as a temp also offers me the privilege of an undercover identity which, would be most exciting if that didn’t actually apply at work! I was incensed twice within 10 minutes today, the conversation went as follows (all names have been changed to prevent potential perpetrator embarrassment!)
The scene: I’m sitting quietly working at my desk when the IT Lady walks in and asks someone for Sabrina the Temp. She is pointed out on the opposite side of the room, so IT Lady walks over.
IT Lady: “You wanted a link?”
Temp looks up: “Sorry?”
IT Lady (slightly abrupt): “You wanted a link or something?”
Temp: “Sorry, I don’t understand?”
IT Lady: “Sabrina?”
I look up and realise IT Lady actually wants Sabrina, a different temp, who is sitting opposite her, talking to someone.
Me (light-hearted, friendly tone): “IT Lady, if you need Sabrina, that’s her there.” (I point)
IT Lady (looking around the office with slightly mad eyes and a definite accusatory tone): “Well I don’t know who any of you are!”
How rude, I thought to myself.
Not 5 minutes later, I went to find the lady who gives out car park keys as there is a space for me on Monday.
Me: “Hi Key Lady, the receptionist sent me to see you to get a car park key for Monday.”
Key Lady pulls a face: “Why, oh why me? How long for?”
Me: “Just for Monday, there is only one spare space next week.”
Key Lady: “Mumble grumble, well that’s a lot of messing about for one day, I wish she hadn’t sent you to me.”
Me (wondering how complicated the key process is): “Should I go to someone else?”
Key Lady: “No, I’ll do it.”
Key Lady stands up and walks 4 steps to her cupboard, unlocks it, takes out bag of keys and hands me a piece of paper.
Key Lady: “Write your name and the date on there, you have to sign it out then back in again.”
Me: “Ok.”
Key Lady: “Are you a temp?”
Me: “Yes.”
Key Lady: “Can you write temp next to your name, it’s just that I don’t bother to get to know anyone who isn’t permanent!”
Me (through gritted teeth): “Thanks! I will bring it back on Tuesday.”
Is it just me?!?

Latest election update…

As I’m still no further forward with the ‘fake job’ offer, I’ve been temping for the last 3 weeks at the local council on the election hotline. It’s amazing how much information you can learn about one subject in such a short amount of time – for instance, did you know that if you can’t get to the polling station to vote, you just need to ring your local party and they will come and pick you up on the day? I also found out what goes on behind the scenes and it’s not pretty. Considering they have done this election stuff the same way for years, witnessing the disorganisation and last-minute decisions, aswell as being told to pass on mixed messages to the general public is scary when the outcome is so important.

The mood of the callers varies; some simply check to see if they are on the electoral roll, others want to know the difference between a postal and proxy vote, some are (understandably) upset because ballot papers, posted out first class, take a week to arrive or worse still, get lost in the post, others are steaming mad because they consider the whole electoral system a farce and shouting or swearing at us seems to make them feel better. Since starting this job, a range of people including cocky students and stressed out businessmen have accused me of disenfranchising them – I’d never even heard the word before but I quickly worked out that it means that I personally (no matter what the circumstances are), have denied them their vote. It’s my fault they missed various deadlines, the post hasn’t arrived, they had to go on holiday, the volcano ash cloud had delayed them etc etc.

Once the postal votes have been received, people refuse to read the instructions and tear off pieces that should stay attached, lose returning envelopes, sign their partners ballot papers and even vote for the wrong party! You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who don’t realise they are voting in both a local and general election, and many are honestly confused when the parliamentary papers don’t give Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg as candidates! And these people have a say in how the country is run..!  

It’s my last day tomorrow and although its been fun and I’ve met some great people, it’s time to move on to temping pastures new…

Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…

… a receptionist! My new temping agency set me up with the booking and I’m sure like me, (unless you have ever worked a switchboard), you think it looks easy from the outside. Step into this world however, and it changes the way I will speak to receptionists in the future! I was lowered very gently into the role by a lovely lady who showed me the basics and let me start when I felt ready. Funnily enough, the thing I hate most about starting a new job is answering the phone as I’m always sure I won’t know what the person on the other end is talking about!

I waited nervously for the first call and sure enough, it came through. The first thing to note is the line number but as I do that, the caller reels off the name, company and person they want to speak at such speed, it’s almost impossible to write quickly enough. Throw in an accent of any description and my brain processor goes crazy! Then, I need to find them on the contact list, dial through and try to re-read my scrawl back to them. If they are not in, I take a message and send them an email but of course, in the middle of all that, the phone rings again. Then suddenly everything goes quiet and just as I’m drifting off into thought, it starts all over again..!

The people sitting around me in the office are all friendly and one even shares a similar accent as she too is originally from the North East. Us Northern foreigners are like meerkats, as soon as we hear a familiar accent, we perk up out of our chairs, trying to sense where it’s coming from so we can bond in our own special way. As the company is situated on an industrial estate on the outskirts of town, my usual lunchtime visit to Starbucks wasn’t an option and somehow, the lure of Morrison’s cafe round the corner  just doesn’t hold the same appeal..!

In one of my quiet moments, I check my email and have one from my old temping agency telling me I have 2 weeks work back at the business show, looks like the potential work rumours yesterday were true…

Work at last…

January was a long, painful month workwise – apart from the disastrous 3 day unpaid stint at the potential job of my dreams, temping has been thin on the ground and for the first time, I had to use my savings to pay my share of the bills – ouch!

Despite having joined 2 temping agencies, the work on offer so far has been unsuitable; 2 months shredding documents and packing boxes in a room on my own, portacabin hire for 6 months with a view to permanent (not exactly in my dream job category) and a 4 week placement in a call centre doing shift work. I know temping is a random source of work but is it really so tricky to pick up some 9-5 office work?!?

Fortunately, my February has started on a brighter note with 2 days temping back at the business show I was with before Christmas and, 2 days at a brand new one. It’s lovely revisiting the old place as although the original job was crashingly boring, the people are great and they all seemed genuinely pleased to see me again :0) After 2 hours back, there are already potential job murmurings for me over the next few months, but having carried all my eggs in this companies basket before and being disappointed, I appear interested but non committal. That’s the thing about temping, you never know what’s round the corner…