Positive Notes about Temp Work


Hello and welcome to the blog.  It’s continuing to cool off here in Iowa and the sunlight is waning.  The holiday season is here and I have to admit to just a bit of the holiday blues.  But life is still good.  It’s a work trekking (aka “work camping”) night.  Since it’s early, pull up a chair at the coffeehouse and join me for a tea and scone as the conversation tonight is about working temporary and temp-to-hire jobs.

The workplace has changed a lot in recent years.  Where once it seemed that a person had to go through a lot of hoops, pee in a bottle, have references checked thoroughly, etc. a lot of companies are using temp services to do the vetting.  The focus seems to have shifted to “on-the-job” performance… at least according to my own observations.  There are, of course, pros and cons  to any situation.  I’ve worked at some great companies and some not-so-great.  I’ve seen super employees and others who failed immediately.  It’s up to the person to shine.

The new job has been a lot of fun.  I’m temping through a highly regarded company and have been pretty happy.  No job is perfect and there are a couple of things that might make a person a little uneasy but overall working for a staffing company has been a positive experience.  I’ll try to keep this balanced though because there are things to consider, both good and bad.

A great advantage to temping is you get the “feel” of a company.  You have the opportunity to see the culture, watch how the management interacts with the workers, learn about evaluation systems, explore the benefits available to full-time workers, etc.  Tours of companies are nice but once you “roll up your sleeves”, you can see more of the “real picture.”  (Sorry about all the metaphors and clichés)

The type of work I do is in an office, working with a computer all day long.  There is a phone but I’ve never had to answer an incoming call yet.  I cannot say too much about the nature of the work but we’ll say I’m on the billing end of things – researching problems, updating automatic payment information, etc.  It’s detail-oriented work, with lots of problem solving… and all the while completely behind the scenes.  The work pace is busy but not as stressful as many of the other roles performed in the past.  For a person who prefers being outside, the quiet, semi-isolated cubicle work is a decent fit.

There are some downsides to temping though.  The biggest is the lack of long-term security – a temp job can end at any time and that aspect might be a deterrent for those with a family.  Attendance requirements are very strict (not a problem for me) and it is not easy to get time off (although my boss is great about it).  At the same time, you have to look, work, and act your best at all times because if you are temp-to-hire you’re on display 40 hours a week!  Turnover can be high due to quits and people are always getting let go for not working out (attendance, productivity, attitude, etc.)  For those of us who are older and have a good work ethic, we’re welcomed — at least in the roles where a person doesn’t need to be an athlete.

Another consideration about short term work is health insurance.  As a single person, the staffing company’s health coverage would have cost about $400 a month for medical, hospitalization, and prescription insurance… not including any co-pays or deductibles.  Most of my co-workers chose not to take this option.  After the 31st of December no one in the US will be required to have health care coverage, hopefully removing the burden from those of us who want to work but cannot afford expensive plans on the market.  There are work-arounds locally – sliding scale clinics, medication programs, etc.  Faced with health insurance stability or income, I chose income.  Once permanent (hopefully soon) I’m taking the best health plan available.  🙂

Extras such as gym membership, company dinners, etc. are often not available to temps since we are “contractors”.  But the staffing company I work through catered in a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and sent plenty of leftovers home.  That really meant a lot!  (The turkey was fantastic!)

Rates of pay can vary as well.  Some staffing companies skim a little off the top of your wages… but the rate of pay is still quite decent…. and keeping people working keeps the staffing company making money.  When one contract ended I was immediately placed in another.  It all worked out well.  By the way, most staffing companies pay weekly.  For those of us at the lower end of the food chain, this is definitely a BIG plus!

So what kind of jobs are available?  All sorts.  Over the years I’ve had pretty good luck with white collar temping.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen many blue collar factory jobs that ranged from uncomfortable to inhumane.  Often such positions are the ones you can’t hire anyone to do or the working conditions are horrible… or both  All pay better than fast food at least.  (So does a 9 year old’s lemonade stand, it seems!)

Beware though… There are good and bad temp companies.  Some are under great pressure and will lie to you to get warm bodies on the payroll.  In about 2007 I’d been hired to field inbound political calls – a lie told to all of us who were hired in that group.  The job lasted 17 minutes during which time I was making outbound calls to the Massachusetts area at supper time asking them to vote for Republicans!  It didn’t go well.  I still remember the three words I used in disgust on the way out (**** this ****!).  Pick your temp company well and you’ll do much better.  Read the reviews online, be objective, ask friends on Facebook which staffing organization is good to work for.  Social media will expose some of the bad apples!

Good luck with temping; it’s worth a try.  I still tell everyone to save, save, save the money they make, especially if a person goes from contract to contract.  Live cheap.  With temporary work it’s more important than ever.  With a little luck I’ll be permanent at the first of the year (about 4 months after starting as a contractor) but even now I’m saving about 25% – 30% of the paychecks by work trekking and taking my own meals… and loving the security of that rainy day fund!



Well, there’s no camping planned for this week other than that needed for working and not having to commute.  While there are no immediate plans for Christmas but it’s very possible that if the weather holds out there might be a Christmas eve church service and an overnight snooze somewhere as Santa flies over.  Be safe this holiday season!

Thanks for visiting today.  Safe and happy camping.

Brad, Jenny, and Duke
Jones County, Iowa



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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

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