Twenty years of office work and still no clue what I want to do for a living
1990 – Estate Agents
I was an office junior. I made £43 a week. I photocopied sales particulars, ordered photographs, ran errands. I bought special work clothes, then was asked to clean out the fridge. The man who ran the place was lovely. The ladies I worked with were vacant nobodies who wore too much make up. My manager was a dragon. I lasted a year.
1991 – Scaffolding Firm
A company that took pride in its use of innuendo, announcing on its vehicles at their prowess in creating and maintaining erections. I worked alone, I listened to the radio. I lasted a year there too when the urge to work somewhere that had proper plumbing became too much.
1992 – Motor Insurance Firm
I worked in a typing pool. Using a typewriter. Typing on foolscap paper with carbon copies. A woman named Margaret brought us tea at 11.00 and 3.00. For reasons I can’t remember, I moved on a year later.
1993 – Travel Insurance Firm
I was training to be a claims clerk, helping people who had lost the use of limbs or skis in Chamonix or similar. The company was housed in a large old building that had scary cobweb-filled rooms where files were kept. I spent most of my time there either putting files away or getting files out. One day I discovered a cartoon drawing of an ugly woman with massive hips. It was labelled “Sam”. I realised then bullying wasn’t confined to the school yard. I reported it to the manager. Months later, when it was time to let some folks go due to cutbacks, I got laid off. The people who bullied me kept their jobs.
1994 – First go at temping
I was placed in a training centre for ex-miners. I loved it. But it wasn’t “permanent”. I had to find something “permanent”. So I ended up moving to the big city to work in a recruitment agency.
1994 – Recruitment Agency
Where I was introduced to the incredibly sleazy practice of ‘executive selection’. Staff trawled through directories to find people to place in jobs that didn’t exist. And they did this all under assumed names and meetings in hotels. I didn’t last.
1995 – The adventures of “The Temp”.
I signed up with as many temping agencies as I could find, and went adventuring. Between 1995 and 2001 I took on admin jobs in all sorts of places – a pie factory, a cinema, the health service, the local council, large companies, small companies… and every now and then I’d try to go back for another go at a ‘permanent’ job, but it wouldn’t last. I’d soon be back at the agencies looking for more temp assignments.
2001 – The Council and other Public Sector Fun
I signed up for the County Council’s in-house temp bank in 2001, and had five happy years working in all sorts of admin jobs for the different departments.
2006 – Go West, PigPog
We moved 200 miles west to Devon, and I just carried on where I left off. I signed up with the County Council’s temp bank, and that’s where I stayed until June this year when the nagging voice re-appeared and inspired me to apply for a permanent job at the local hospital… one month in I realised I had made a big mistake, and after three months in the job, I resigned once again.
Lessons learned in the last 20 years
- I’m a natural born temp. Admit it, embrace it, keep a stash of time sheets handy.
- Office culture does not suit me, but when I’m temping I can rise above it.
- This is the 21st Century, there is more than one way of making a living.
- Life is short and precious, and there is no point wasting it in jobs I don’t like.
- All this temping has given me a vast array of skills which means I can slot in just about anywhere and get on with the work.
So, what’s in store for the next 20 years?
To quote the late, great, DI Alex Drake…
“Quite frankly, your guess is as good as mine”
Here’s to the future. Whatever that might be.