Work Option While Traveling: Temping

Temporary Employment While Travelling

So far, we haven’t had much time in one place between jobs.  But now, we’re house sitting in one spot for 6 weeks.  After that, we’ll head up to our summer job in (very) remote MN.  It seems smart to go ahead and get some things taken care of while we’re here in “the city,” but it’s going to take some money to do so.

We’re not (yet) in the group of folks that have income coming regardless of where they are living.  So, that means that we need to go out and find employment.  Back in the 90’s that was an easy accomplishment.  There were more jobs than employees, the pay was more in-line with the cost of living, and office work was still plentiful.  Not so much in today’s economy.

Living honestly is something that’s important to us, and we decided that we don’t want to take jobs where the employer is expecting a long-term commitment from us.  It would be easy to argue that employers don’t offer long-term commitments to their employees, so all’s fair in love and war.  But, in the end, it comes down to principle: We don’t want to lie.  1) It makes you feel bad when you do it.  2) It’s bad karma.  3) Once started, it’s a slippery slope.  It becomes a bad habit that quickly spreads into other aspects of your life.   4) And besides, God’s pretty clear in “the good book” that he doesn’t favor liers.  So that’s my long winded explanation for why we didn’t opt to pursue better paying long-term jobs and just ditch them when we wanted to leave.

Temporary work appealed to us as the best option.  If you’re not familiar with it, temporary agencies hire people to go out and work in temporary situations for their clients.  They could have you go out to an office and answer telephones or put stamps on envelopes.  You might do data entry.  You might be packing boxes in a warehouse.  Or putting gadgets on widgets in an assembly line.  You might be digging a trench or holding a sign on the side of the road.  It all depends on what the agency has as available work that they think you can handle.

You won’t get rich doing it, but the pay is generally better than minimum wage.  And you get paid weekly, which is nice.

Some temporary agencies “do it all,” but most seem to specialize:  office work, medical, labor (factory & construction).  To find a temporary agency near your area, just search in your favorite search engine for any combination of these terms:

  • temporary agencies
  • temp staffing
  • staffing agencies
  • employment agencies

They all have a different flavor, with different requirements.  You might want to call ahead, so that you’re not wasting your time.  Introduce yourself as new to the area and  looking for temporary work.  Politely ask them a few questions, like:

  • what types of work do they handle?
  • do they have work available for immediate placement?
  • what do they need for an application?
  • what are the next steps in the application process?

Note:  I should point out that many of them require a drug test.  I don’t know if I’d bring it up directly, as it could make you look flighty.  But if this is something that’s a concern for you, you may want to ask them to tell you about all that’s entailed in the application process.  If you ask it that way,  you look professional and they’ll likely tell you if there is such a requirement.  No point putting yourself through the application process if you won’t pass the drug test.  Save yourself some aggravation and find another place that doesn’t require it.

If this isn’t an option for you, there are plenty of jobs that have high-turnover.  I consider those “temporary” employment also, just by their nature.  Plus they don’t tend to ask questions like “where do you see yourself a year from now.”  They just want people to get the job done today.  Food service seems to be the one that has the most availability and doesn’t seem to have the drug test requirement.  Remember, this isn’t your career.  It’s just a job that’s serving a purpose.

I’m working right now on a temporary assignment using a spot-welding machine in a factory on 2nd shift.  My background is anything but that:  management, office work, computer work, project management, database work, process improvement.  But that really doesn’t matter, as it’s not what I’m aspiring to do right now.  So I haven’t even brought it up with them, and they haven’t asked.  It’s a win-win.  It’s giving me what I need right now – a paycheck.  And since it’s “temporary work,”  I’ll just give my notice two weeks ahead of time and leave with a clear conscience.

If you choose to go this route, it’s easy to gravitate to what’s comfortable and what you know already.  Makes sense, right!  But, you might also think about opening yourself to other possibilities that are outside the realm of what you’re used to.  It’s just temporary work, so it’s not like you’re committing to a lifetime of it.  Think of it as “test driving” a new occupation.

Also, for it to be practical, temporary work while travelling makes the most sense when you’re in one area for several weeks.  (It can take you a week or two just to get placed in a job).  You’ll have more options for temporary work in more populated areas.  The work you find will be a job with all the frustrations and expectations that come with a “job.”  But since it’s not your life-long career, you find it keeping up at night.  You won’t dream about it.  You wont’ think about it during every waking moment, like we tend to do with career jobs.  Besides, temp work can also give you some flexibility along with the quick income.  And, best of all, it is “temporary.”

If you need a quick influx of funds and you’re not going to be in the area long, check out day-labor options.  Once you fill out their initial application, you basically show up at their office at a rude hour of the morning.  They look through the list of people present and choose who’s going out on which jobs for the day. It’s hard physical work – like road construction, lifting boxes in a shipping center, etc.   Your fellow-employees tend to be a bit of  a rough crowd, and you’ll likely learn some creative uses for curse-words you’ve not heard before.  But, there’s no commitment other than the immediate work day and they tend to pay by the day.

Temp work, as a gap-filler, works for me.  I love learning new things and having new experiences.  This manufacturing job that I’m doing right now isn’t particularly easy.  It is long hours.  The training program is considerably less than what I’m used to.  I’m (thankfully) not in any physical danger, but occasionally my thumbs catch a molten metal splinter.  But I am enjoying the challenge of this new work adventure.  Additionally, it is definitely giving me a new appreciation for how much effort goes into even just the little parts that keep our modern life machines moving at their fast pace.

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