Flowers in California

Flowers in California

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Personnel Agency - Friend or Foe?

I made a questionable move last week.  I probably made a few but I'll focus on my trip to a personnel agency.  I went to one and suggested that I am available for work.  I have done temporary work before.  Last time, years ago, it led to a wonderful company where I worked happily for five years.  Not all assignments were like that.  A few stand out in my mind as being particularly unpleasant.  Still, I made some money and got experience and found my way around a new city.  It worked well enough.

This time, I would like to start working again (for money!) after being home for 11 years.  I want to write but, at this early stage, writing is not bringing in the big bucks.  Or the small bucks.  Returning to temporary work seemed like a good solution.

I went to an agency and spent much longer than I expected doing various software and data entry/typing tests.  My software skills were average, the rest was quite good and the company is willing to send me out into the wilds of the business world again.  It felt nice to be back downtown that day and to think that soon I would be a part of things again.

I guess there wasn't enough conversation that day about what I want to do.  It's difficult until you hear about an assignment to know whether you want it or not.  If stringent guidelines are laid out about what is and isn't acceptable, though, it's possible to miss out on something so good it's worth a few compromises.  But clearly, I could have been more specific.  I suppose they could have asked more helpful questions too.

The next day I received a call about an assignment that would start the next day and last a month.  I listened to the job responsibilities.  The list went on and on and on.  I could not believe the quantity and diverse nature of the duties.  I could carry out some of them, some might cause me to have emotional breakdowns, and some would probably tempt me to do bad things to people.  (I don't know how wise it is to place an overworked and resentful temporary employee in the position of making travel arrangements for people.  "Sure, I'll arrange for a flight for you" might sound helpful but there's no indication of where the flight would go or if a flight back would also be arranged.  Apparently they were willing to give me that power.  They shouldn't.)

With the position being available so suddenly and an immediate need to temporarily fill it, I wonder what happened to the person previously in it.  Perhaps the awfulness of the role got to her or him.  Perhaps they also came up with the idea of giving someone a one way ticket to a far off land and they followed through with it.  Whatever happened, if this person handled so many responsibilities, I fear that no one else would be able to explain the role and help me become comfortable in it.  There would be expectations, however, and tasks to perform.  It would be quite yucky.  You can quote me on that.

I didn't take the position.  It's fine, and expected, to turn down positions.  What bothers me is that this position was so wrong for me.  It wasn't a little wrong - it was extremely wrong.  It goes against who I am and clearly the person I talked to at the agency did not pick up on who I am and my strengths and weaknesses.  I will help with accounting or administrative work and I like problem solving.  If you put me in a little corner somewhere and ask me to sort something out, I will do that.  I've done some breathtaking (ok, maybe not breathtaking but good) work with spreadsheets.  Try to pretend I'm an administrative assistant though and bad things will happen.  You'll learn quickly that I have no aptitude for that role.  You'll learn quickly that you've made a bad decision.  You'll learn quickly that no one will win in that scenario.

I don't know where my relationship with the agency is going.  Perhaps it's over already as I have turned down another assignment since the first call.  That may be for the best.

Personnel agencies play a useful role.  I know that working for them can be a good experience.  I see, however, that their goal is pretty much to find a person for a job, any job.  That's how they make money.  That's how they keep companies happy.  I have to watch out for how to make me happy.  Accepting a job, any job is not the way I'm going to do that.  I don't want to be driven to stranding strangers around the world.  But already I've thought of that as a way to seek revenge.  I think that's a sign I should be very, very careful before I accept any temporary assignments.  And people should check their travel information thoroughly before leaving home if they ever see me anywhere near their workplace.  It's good to know we've all learned something from this experience.


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