Friday, January 4, 2013

The World of Short-term Employment

Have you ever been a short-term employee - by choice?

Tired of factory-type summer jobs during my college years, one summer I decided to sign on with a small landscaping company. The “company” consisted of one 50ish Italian guy with his pickup truck, some tools, and two of us hearty young know-nothings. After one day of trying to keep up with the owner and dog-tired from working from 7 AM to after 6 PM, I decided that I was not really cut out for landscaping (i.e., lawn mowing) and didn’t go back on day 2, forfeiting the one-day pay that was due to me. I failed; but factories did look relatively palatable from that day on.

I can recall being desperate for work during a 5 or 6 week period wedged in between getting my BA and starting grad studies (with a paid teaching assistantship no less). My new wife had secured a modest job at our new locale but our bank account was bone dry – we even borrowed money from her new boss to pay the first month’s rent at the married student apartments!  But who is going to hire you for a month+ when it’s half way through the summer; in Bangor, ME? I even lost out on a gas station job when the owner hired a 15 year old instead so he didn’t have to pay minimum wage. So I signed on with Manpower and waited for “the call.” I did get some interesting one-day assignments – unloading vinyl siding from a railroad car, painting an empty gas station that was changing hands (OK, that took two of us a couple of days) and filling in pot holes with hot asphalt from the back of a truck on the very campus where I would be starting my illustrious grad studies a few weeks hence. I also learned that there was no shortage of folks on Manpower’s list and sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring wouldn’t cut it. I had to take the initiative and call them up every morning to see if any work assignments were waiting to be filled. Squeaky wheel and all that stuff. I confess I was glad when September rolled around and those big fat teaching assistant checks started pouring in (yeah, right).

A consulting firm I worked for many years ago hired a biologist sight unseen from Kentucky for a near-entry level position at our NH headquarters. Apparently this fellow had never been out of KY before and he traveled up to New England by bus on the weekend before his Monday morning start. Seems that one partial weekend sitting in a YMCA room in a foreign land, pondering Momma’s home cooking, was enough for the young guy. He took the first Monday morning bus back to KY, calling his would-be boss from somewhere on the road. Given my prior landscaper’s experience, I withheld any criticism of his actions.

Over the years I’ve supervised a few employees who didn’t stay around too long. One was a bright young 20-something who just graduated from a big-name eastern university. While in grad school she interned with a major federal agency in one of their downtown DC headquarters divisions. It was actually a fairly responsible policy analyst position that addressed a then-controversial regulatory subject area. There was absolutely no shortage of beltway consultants and contractors giving this 20-something worlds of attention (think lobbyists or better, bees to honey). She was definitely the “it girl” while the position lasted. And when it ended, the beltway consulting firm that I was working for at the time hired her. We really didn’t know what she was to do, and didn’t have a suitable on-going client project to stick her on. So while I had no input into her hiring and she had relocated herself to a different east coast city by choice, my boss decided that I should figure out her fit in the company and find her a suitable role. She was quite bright, and actually a very nice individual. But it was soon clear to both of us that there was no fit and she resigned within a week or two. I never met her face-to-face.

That was 10 years ago. But ahhh, now there’s the vibrant internet and people pop up seemingly out of the woodwork. Even ones you’ve forgotten about. It turns out that “Y” had moved from the East Coast to San Fran and has since held many short-term positions in the intervening years. In her own words:

“In 2003, she began her deep personal journey through her learned self, tearing away layers of conditioning to find her true self. She now dedicates her life to the practice of living authentically, and inspires others to live with a sense of self-awareness, connection, gratitude and compassion. A writer, Y uses her deep love of people and the natural world as inspiration for her blog pieces on human behavior and our sense of connection with self, others, and the planet."

“Y is (currently) a freelance environmental analyst, program and project manager, strategic consultant, conference facilitator, writer, and ESL instructor. In May, she visited India where she taught English to Tibetan monks and wrote.”

Probably just intuition, but something deep within my soul seems to be signaling that she probably wouldn’t have made a good long-term landscaper either. I can feel the inner guilt melting away right now.


Michael said...

What, no reiki, no yoga? She must be a slacker!

Gringo said...

When I hitched to Houston years ago to seek my fortune, I worked for temp agencies doing factory or clerical work. There was no lack of temp work in those boom times. I spent three months in temp work until I obtained a professional job.

I did not get a permanent job out of my temp work- nor did I try.Too far removed from my profession.

Years later I got some OJT in a niche job in a niche business that was just starting out.Ground floor and all that. When the big investors decided to sell out after several years- at a good profit- I and other employees were on the street.

I quickly landed a job with a competitor doing temporary project work. One project led to another. I worked for them over a year before my boss at my former place of employment found funding, and went to work for him.

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