Temping is a funny old way to earn a living. You turn up for work at the same time as everyone else, you sit next to them, you make each other tea, but you’re always aware of the fact that you’re not one of them. They’ll make small talk and offer to grab you a Twix from Tesco on their break, but they don’t get too attached to anyone who might not be there next week. It’s not like I’m short on friends or anything, but it would be nice to feel a bit more… well, comfortable. Settled. At ease.
In my case, this is somewhat compounded by the lack of work to be done. As an NHS employee I carry a tiny bit of guilt about being paid to spend half my day on the Internet – so that people can have breaks and holidays, we need three in our office, but there isn’t enough work for us all. Nobody else is as bored as I am because they have more to do: no point in wasting time showing the temp what to do with invoices and insurance claims. No point in even giving me access to the shared departmental diary. I won’t be here long, after all, so they may as well just give me the basic stuff they don’t want to do and let me read XKCD in between. It’s frustrating, because you never shake the feeling that they just don’t think you’re capable.
But really, the thing that bugs me is the uncertainty. Not knowing where I’ll be in the next few weeks is a bit more than a control freak like me can hack. The good news is that word of my natural gift for simple administrative tasks has spread – a whole ten feet to my right. The manager of the department next door just happens to need someone from almost exactly when I become available, and this week he asked me if I’d mind him requesting me. Of course not, I said. It’s paid.
Obviously, this is the backdrop to my grand search for something permanent. The great, nameless search at which the Jobcentre took one look and wept: the quest of the generic English grad seeking to use their language-based powers for good. Or money. Preferably both.
This is a far more complicated kettle of fish. Granted, the applications have slowed since I’ve had something to spend my days on, but the last flurry of cover letters and CV updates did yield some results. One interview, for a job I would have actually really liked doing PR for a London-based charity (and one that deserves a lot more support than it gets), didn’t feel great at the time but surprisingly did lead to the offer of a second interview. By that point, though, I’d figured out how much money I’d need to move to the capital, pay off my Masters debt and buy food. It was more than the salary on the table, so I had to decline the first positive sign I’ve had so far. Excellent.
Anyway, I consoled myself with the knowledge that the following week there’d be another interview – for a content marketing company based nearby. Perfect. I’d be writing and researching, living at home and therefore saving rather than having to borrow to move out; all I had to do was sit a general knowledge test, ‘mental agility’ test (I still don’t know what that means), proof-reading test, another writing test on top of the one I’d already done, and then have an actual interview. That’s all.
My test scores were all “very good, actually”, as I was informed with just the tiniest hint of disbelief by an interviewer who had set the tests and given a presentation but didn’t actually know me to be surprised. The problems arose when they finally spoke to me, and grilled me like a Nando’s chicken breast.
I’ve had a few interviews by now, and while I’m light years away from being good at them I’d like to think I’m fairly familiar with the setup. After two hours of pretty intensive testing, then, I wasn’t really up for aggressive questioning – and though we started off fairly simply, soon they were asking for minute details of blogs I’d written for two years ago. Then came the sucker punch:
“You keep going on about your writing skills. If your writing is that good, why aren’t you a journalist?”
How does one go about diplomatically and concisely telling a total stranger that print news is a dying medium which gets more sleazy as you work your way up, and though online journalism would suit me better it’s extremely competitive and there are far better people for it than me, and that I’m not in a position to do loads of unpaid work experience, and that what I’d really like to do is be Editor-in-Chief of Empire Magazine, but in the real world I’m going to have to find something else that doesn’t involve having to murder every film critic in Britain?
I haven’t figured it out, but I think I said something about having commercial experience I wanted to marry up with other skills blah blah blah. Slightly harder to style out was the one question I specifically didn’t think they’d ask.
“Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
Nobody goes for clichés like that anymore, do they? I thought they got bored of smartarses saying “In your job” and moved on to something else.
I don’t know. I don’t know where I want to be one year’s time, other than doing a job that I like and not living at home. So while I was making up something about “seeing where life takes me” and “honing my skills”, I realised that I probably should have a plan, but ultimately everything depends on what jobs I can actually get. And while I resent the fact that my life might end up being dictated by an economy that I didn’t personally crash, that might just be the best thing for me. It’s not like I’ve got any better ideas. Maybe it’s myself I should resent.
This marks the exact point I’d got to in writing this blog post when I went to work on Tuesday. By the time I got home, I was considering a rewrite.
I got the job.
I haven’t rewritten in the end, because everything I said before still stands. But I’m a lot more optimistic than I was before – a window has opened at last, and though I don’t know where anything is going to go, I’ve got grounds to think it might be going up. Time to start “developing and honing my skills” and “seeing where life takes me”. I’d better hope I’m as good as I said I was.