O'TOOLE: Temp work the best solution for now

Fresh out of college in 1993, I went to a temporary agency for help finding work. But not right away, and only under duress.
Sep 4, 2013


You see, I moved in with my parents after graduation and was making $50 per article writing for a business magazine. The editor promised me a permanent, full-time copy editing position as soon as it opened up.

Months passed, and no copy editing position became available. My parents told me I needed to find employment that would allow me to live independently and then do just that, anywhere in the universe but in their house. Now.

The temp agency was my mother’s idea and I prayed hard over my application. “Please, God, please let me get a job. Please don’t leave me 22 and homeless. I’ve got a bachelor’s degree. I could never face my friends again.”

I got a fabulous gig as an administrative assistant at a Grand Haven factory. I liked the job, I liked the office and I very much liked my co-workers — one very single, very handsome co-worker in particular.

I imagined myself working there until retirement, marrying the office hottie and having hottie children with him. It was a wonderful future to look forward to. But it was only in my head.

My assignment ended much too soon, in two short weeks when the full-time administrative assistant returned from her vacation.

A few weeks later, I accepted a new assignment, which I thought was for customer service. It was counting paper in a warehouse. I was not suited to the job. I repeatedly lost count of the slippery papers and had to start over again.

My job performance was evaluated on speed and accuracy. I was neither speedy nor accurate. The boss followed me around the warehouse saying, “You need to be faster. Faster! Faster than that! Pick up the pace or I’ll write you up!”

I wilted under my boss’ constant scrutiny. I didn’t even enjoy lunch. I wanted to hide out in a smoke-free corner and read books from my former professors’ recommended reading lists, but my co-workers sat in their cloud of smoke and jeered at me until I was shamed into joining them.

Annoyed with the temp agency for offering me an assignment so far outside of my oeuvre, I found a new job on my own. It lasted for two years, before I moved away to attend graduate school.

After two years of graduate school, I got married and went to work teaching English in Saginaw. My husband’s job required us to move every two years or so, which made it difficult for me to establish myself in my own career. But I managed to accumulate three years of stay-home parenting, four years of administrative assisting and 10 years of teaching college English.
None of that was enough to get me interviews when I moved to Ottawa County after my divorce.

Once again, I found myself filling out applications and taking tests in a temp agency.

The first administrative assistant assignment was supposed to last two months. When two months passed and I was still working, I grew hopeful that I might be hired permanently. Then the bosses closed our office. I was the last to be told and I was given two days’ notice. After seven months.

I next worked in scheduling. I thought I was filling in for someone on vacation. It turned out the previous scheduler had resigned effective immediately — after more than 20 years on the job. I couldn’t help wondering what could have made her quit so suddenly after so long. Now that my six weeks of stress-induced daily migraines is over, I have a pretty good idea.

I was relieved when they hired a permanent scheduler from within the company. At least they gave me a week’s notice.

But I’m still waiting for my next assignment, one that I’m hoping and praying will suit me and become permanent. While I wait, I’m looking on my own, but no interviews yet. I’m watching my bank account slowly dwindle as I pay bills and do my best to provide for my two children.

I am not alone in this. A recent USA Today article says that companies are hiring more temp workers than ever before, but they’re not keeping them for the long term, maybe because of the changes in health care law, and maybe because they’re afraid the economy will slump again. Maybe both.

I’m not ready to give up on temping just yet. I’ve had more success getting work with them than without them. All I can do is keep on keepin’ on. And pray.

— By Kelly O'Toole, Tribune community columnist



Looks like that "Hope and Change" promised to us 5 years ago hasn't worked out so well you.

Tri-cities realist

Lanny, if you're reading this, perhaps this is a case in point of that characteristic we were discussing on another article... The one our parents drummed into us.


This is a sad story, but it's reality for lots on young people. Best thing I ever did was pay off my house & all debts. I worked and sometimes still work for temp agencies its a good way to meet people and socialize. When they (bosses) try to abuse me - I do not hesitate to call them out on the carpet. Have no problem walking out the door. Won't hesitate to slap em either if the belittle me. I'll put up with some but if they (bosses) abuse another temp & I"ll slap em! right in front of everybody! I have another source of income lined up. Sure am not gong to disclose it in this forum - young people will just have to figure something out just like I did. A person can get out these "Temp Traps" But I spent countless hours in library reading books since I was 14. I enjoyed that when I was unemployed or bored. My advice to any person in those temp traps living at home. Go to and visit the many libraries at colleges and others. Its free, its air conditioned. After reading many books on hundreds of subjects - you'll get out of the "Temp Traps" It don't matter if your a master CNC toolmaker or white collar bean counter. You'll figure it all out. It will dawn on ya! You'll find a way to make money. Those library's are crammed with information. Good Luck


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