Are temp jobs a dead end?

I graduated from college with a degree in English in 2008.

I started a temp job at a goverment agency. My boss loved me and even recommended me for
a position in another department. Unfortunately, since it was temporary I could not stay. Then I interviewed for an admin position at a top 100 company in Rochester, NY and I was hired over an internal employee by my manager. Unfortunately this position wasn’t paying my bills and student loans, so I obtained another position at the University of Rochester as an admin. My job was to provide administrative support to the chief physician of the department. This is probably the most miserable position I have ever had; and instead of leaving when I knew I should, I ended up being let go by my company.

After that I started a temp postion at a company I loved, and I earned some great references. I was offered an interview for a customer service position but I ended up turing it down for a temporary editorial assistant position in Baltimore, MD. I was sort of thrown into this position as the editorial assistant and coordinator were leaving in a week. After a short time, they claimed that my Excel skills were not up to their standards, and I was let go from this temporary assignment.

I recently had the same experience at another company as a temporary employee. –I’m not certain how I can have so much success (being hired over an internal, being recommended for alternate departments, generally being well liked and respected) at some companies and being denied employment at other companies as a temporary employee.

Do you have any insight into temporary employment vs.full time opportunities? At the last temporary position I had I felt that I was let go due to a personality conflict with another employee. I am an incredibly conscientious person and I honestly do not feel this was my fault. It’s hard for me not to take these things to heart as I felt that I was the one being mistreated, but because I was a temporary employee it was ultimately their opinion over mine.

5 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Temp jobs are a great way to get a staff job.

    Most temporary employes in the types of jobs you have had end up getting hired as staff employees. In the positions you are taking, people are looking at temps as possible hires. They are seeing if they like the temp.

    The truth is that people do not like working with you. They don’t like your personality. They get a good chance to know you as a temp, and if you were very likable, one of these companies — probably more than one — would have hired you.

    I think you have social skills issues. I think your social skills are probably not as strong as they need to be to get a good job, and that’s where you should focus your energy right now. It’s not just that you rub people the wrong way, but also you do a very poor job of reading how people are responding to you. People are courteous to you and you interpret that as them liking you. There is a big difference.

    Here is a way to think about adult life: Ninety percent of jobs in the world can be done by more than a million people. So you cannot get a job because you are the most qualified for it — because there will be so many people who are equally as qualified as you. You get a job by being the person they like best. It’s a popularity contest and you need to be likable. I don’t think you are understanding this part.

    Here are some posts I’ve written to get you thinking about social skills in a different way. Ultimately, though, I think you’ll probably need some sort of coaching.


  2. Avodah
    Avodah says:

    I studied English in undergrad and religious studies in grad school. I’m making a career change from academia to finance (long story, happy to email privately, if you want).

    I got a temp job as an EA at at large, prestigious financial firm, I recently was hired on a permanent capacity, and I am very happy.

    Penelope said something that resonated deeply w/ me, and I think it could help you. Read! Reading will improve your social skills and ability to navigate the workforce. Read classics, and carefully consider what you like, dislike, can’t stand, love or admire about characters. Consider how other characters react to them (and in different situations). Lastly, what good and bad qualities do you see in characters that you may see in yourself?

    Your English degree wasn’t for naught!

  3. NS
    NS says:

    I think Penelope’s advice is very good.

    I would add a distinction though. You have good enough social skills to get hired – as you have been hired as a temp, hired over even an internal candidate etc. Your “long-term” social skills are what are letting you down. People don’t like working with you long-term. For an hour-long interview you do OK, but it’s the day-in, day-out social skills that you need to work on.

    I suggest you try to get some feedback from previous employers. And don’t just dismiss the personality conflict you had with another employee. Take a hard look at what you could have done to prevent it, or at least to prevent it escalating.

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