4. Bring A Book.
Particularly with short-term gigs, sometimes your task is simply to be present in case someone maybe, eventually, someday needs you. You’re there to be a warm, professionally-dressed, baseline-articulate body. One day I spent the better part of twelve hours holding a microphone in case audience members at a conference asked questions, in which case I was instructed to run at them and thrust the mic into their (usually unsuspecting) faces. In that time, maybe ten audience members asked a question. Mostly the corporate crowd sat back at their long tables, half-awake, occasionally scribbling with complimentary pens or getting up to grab another cube-like container of that sweet, sweet Fiji water. Meanwhile, I lurked in the corner of a hotel ballroom, swaying in my one-and-only pair of dress shoes, trying to keep watch for raised hands but mostly making a mental list of GIFs to search for from Only Lovers Left Alive.
On other occasions, like the time I managed a will-call table, you interact with a human every twenty minutes, if you’re lucky. In these situations, it is totally fine and very advisable to crack open a YA novel about the sexual awakenings of teenage sorceresses in Victorian England, or whatever. Your supervisors will usually be really chill about this, and also might think you’re really brave for doing standup and acting and tell you how much they love Wicked.
5. Ask the dumb questions.
I hate the training phase of a new job, and that’s basically the only part that you experience as a temp. I hate it because it makes me feel not-self-sufficient, and needy. I hate how it makes me feel like Wormtail when I’m constantly asking where we keep the stapler, wondering if I’m annoying my boss-of-the-day, and trying to shake the dread that soon someone is going to figure out something I have unwittingly destroyed. Also, people loooove to hate on newbies and temps.
Turns out white-collar adults enjoy complaining just as much as emotional teens. Offices feel exactly like high school, but at least these days I’m being paid while enduring Patricia’s bitch session about Margaret’s emails at the water fountain.
So. You might not be popular right away, and you might get talked to like a child sometimes, but don’t let this prevent you from getting the answers you need. It’s tempting to cower in your cubicle and pray you’re doing everything right, but in the long run it’s much better to bug your supervisor to re-explain the database or fax machine or bloopy-blorp-business-jargon, just to make sure you learn the right way. Also, if you feel like you’re not being given enough tasks and you’ve spent 50% of your days taking Buzzfeed quizzes in which you match emojis with fictional characters, bother your coworkers and supervisors for ways you can contribute. They’ve probably forgotten you exist, but when you remind them, they’ll appreciate your attempts to, you know, work. I learned the hard way that timidity in contacting my superiors can get misinterpreted as not giving a hoot. It’s better to be a pain in the ass at the beginning than find out you botched the files on the 863 K-Glork Magnotron Interface three months later.
***Give me some comment love, yo! Have you all experienced the medium-paced demands of temp purgatory? Do you also overhear whispers about you drifting over cubicle walls? What feminist teen page-turners earn you weird looks from artsy dudes on the CTA?