What I Learned From My Stint In Self-Imposed Job Hell

The volatile economy has afforded me the opportunity to work in a number of short-term jobs in the financial sector, homeland security applications, corporate law firms, and tech companies.  The lack of stability is a downside, sure, but it’s actually kind of fun to be a temporary employee. For the term of your contract, you are guest in the office and people tend to treat you accordingly.  You get to try on a position and company’s culture and see if it suits you, and it’s a great way to get your foot in the door.

My first adult job was a temp-to-hire admin position, one I stayed in for seven years.  When it was time to move on, the first call I made was to the same staffing agency.  Between, 2008-2011 I had five contract positions ranging between 6 weeks to a year in length and mostly enjoyed the work.   That last gig was a doozy, but my attitude was worse.

The recruiter warned me that it was a hard-to fill position and there was a high turnover rate, but that if I could hack it there were lots of perks and they were looking to fill the role permanently.  How bad could it be?  I would show up and do a damn good job, they’d be charmed by work ethic and dazzled by skill set.  Easy breezy.

Things did not go as planned. When I arrived 15 minutes prior to the assigned 9 am, the office (which was exquisitely designed, in that more Herman Miller than sense style) was a ghost town. Slowly, folks trickled in, but the woman I was to report to didn’t show up until 11, and was several years my junior. Ego blow number one.

She briefly explained the scope of my position (receptionist) and then asked me if it was something I’d be interested in full-time.  Having a solid decade in the workforce, I wasn’t really interested in an entry level position, but I needed a paycheck.  I told her that, as the industry was new to me, a receptionist position would help me to understand the company’s purpose, missions, and goals.  I was trying to sound ambitious.  Who knows, with a lot of hard word in a few years I could work my way up to an administrative assistant!

I thought it was a pretty good answer.  I guess I was wrong.  Frowning, she informed me that she needed someone who was enthusiastic staying in the role long-term, and that I wasn’t a consideration for the position.  It was massive blow numero dos to my ego.  How could she possibly decide, without even a day’s work, that I wasn’t qualified for her crappy, menial job?  Fuck her and fuck that fucking place.

For the next 5 months, I did what was asked of me and I did it well.  My performance may have been great, but my demeanor was foul. I didn’t make an effort to get to know my coworkers or learn anything about their business model.  Why bother?  Every day I came in could be the last.  I watched they interviewed candidate after candidate.  When they finally hired someone on, I found out who she was and why she was there when she introduced herself—the mother of all ego blows.

I have since found a full-time, permanent position that I enjoy.  My plan is to stay here forever, but if that doesn’t work out and I find myself in similar situation, here’s what I will do differently:

  •  Smile and think of the money.  I’ve done worse things for money than make sure an office full of entitled 20-somethings had their choice of organic fruit juice boxes and edamame. I will look back on that wisdom tooth removal study and get some perspective.
  • Define what is that is irksome, and file it away. I won’t allow one aspect of shitty job overshadow learning opportunities and contacts.
  • Look for a takeaway.  Maybe it’s free coffee or a short commute.  So long as I exploit the hell out of any perks, and I’ll probably end up feeling like I got away with something.
  • My mantra must be “I am not my job.”   Spend more time doing things outside of work that give me satisfaction and improve myself worth.

Despite being a total brat, I managed to meet several talented, interesting people who have overlooked my petulant behavior and became good friends.   And the company?  They had massive layoffs, so I would have gone regardless.  I wasn’t qualified to answer their complaint calls, but they are still sending 1099 work my way.  I’m smug all the way to the bank.



  1. Sign on for the paycheck, stay for the free food, leave for greener pastures. You go girl!

  2. By the way, can you order more of that Whole Foods tuna salad? We’re out.

    • My favorite thing ever written on the board of grocery demands (other than edible flowers) was an entire paragraph requesting Topo Chico –including a cost analysis pointing out that it was cheaper than beer. I don’t know if the person who wrote it felt it needed that level of justification or they were just very through. Either way, it made my day.

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