Working for a Temp Agency - An Interview


I spent a couple years working for a temp agency on and off, back when I was in my twenties and early thirties. People typically think of secretarial work when they think of a temporary employment agency, but I never did any office work. In fact, the variety of work that I did was surprising, as you will see in this short interview.

Steve, what made you turn to a temp agency for work?

There were a couple reasons. The first was that I needed a job. Now, at that time (probably about 20 years ago) I could have found a job pretty easily, but I really didn't want to work full time, and I wanted a more flexible schedule. That brings us to the second reason; the agency I worked for in northern Michigan was very flexible. Once I signed up they would find various jobs for me that often lasted only a few days, and I could say yes or no when they called.

So they allowed you to pick and choose from what they had?

That's right, and it was a big deal for me, because I was bored with long-term and full-time employment. Now, it was true that if I said no more than a few times in succession they would call me less often, but I could always check in when I really needed work, and they would tell me what they had.

Do you think that's changed?

Almost certainly. You better take what you can get in this economy. On the other hand, part of why they were so flexible was that I always got good reviews from their clients. My experience has been that if you do a good job and don't argue too much you can get away with a lot more than you might think with any employer. It helps to be willing to lose any job (I always was), and to subtly let your employer know this.

So what kinds of jobs did you get through the temp agency?

I was assigned factory work once or twice, like assembling muffler brackets. I hated that one, and quit it after a few days. I hosted conventions at a local resort once or twice, and did banquet set up work there as well. I handed out samples of food in a Sam's Club, and helped install restaurant equipment in a new Outback Steakhouse. I spent a week packaging and shipping out infomercial products for a order fulfillment company.

How much were you paid?

The pay varied from job to job, but it was low. The most I made was about $10 per hour, the least probably around $7 per hour. I did once make $36 for 45 minutes of work unloading bales of insulation at a Home Depot for a trucker. The temp agency had a four-hour minimum charge, my wage was $9 per hour, and it went quicker than the trucker expected.

Which were your favorite assignments?

I liked the outdoor work that I occasionally got. In particular I enjoyed the construction cleanup jobs. Those clients occasionally needed help with roofing and framing and other tasks, so I learned a lot.

Which ones did you hate?

As I mentioned, I hated factory work, and repeatedly turned down those jobs. But one that I lasted only a day at was road construction flagman. I did a couple hours of special training to get certified, and I really though I would enjoy it, but my assignment was not a relaxing job site on a country highway as I had envisioned. It was at the busiest intersection in the county, and the client didn't provide us with two-way radios as they normally do. I never knew when the last car had come trough from the other end of the construction project, so there were constant traffic jams and honking horns.

What else can you tell us about your experience?

I liked the variety of work, but I know many people would prefer more stable positions. In reality, many did use the temp agency for that purpose. The factories in the area, for example, hired through the agency but put people on payroll if they worked out. I was able to get all the different assignments in part because everyone else there wanted the steady long-term work.

One thing I didn't like was that the temp agency I worked for did not always tell clients what the rules were. The gentleman who had to pay for my unloading of insulation was quite upset to see that he had to pay for four hours, for example. I was supposed to be fired for going on a roof, but I hated to say no to honest work that a client needed done.

Ala in all, it was great experience to be able to have taste of different kinds of work. I quickly learned what I was suited to and what I would only do if starving.

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Every Way to Make Money | Working for a Temp Agency - An Interview