“When are you going to settle down?”, “What do you do for your real job?”, “But don’t you want job security?” If you’ve temped or worked in industries that are an anomaly to the average “Muggle”, you’ve heard those phrases before. In fact, if you had £1 for every time you heard them, you wouldn’t need a “real job”!
Temping carries a stigma, largely put there by the minds of the people doing the temping! We over think it and mistake other people’s curiosity for condemnation. Most temps, particularly in the hospitality industry are students or people looking for extra income but then there are those of us that invite that curiosity, those that people don’t quite understand so with their questions we overthink and think they think things that they don’t think…we really shouldn’t think so much!
But it’s those phrases, those questions above that bring on the doubts. I was a dancer and singer and, if a fellow performer asked what I was doing, I wanted my answer to be: “I’m in the middle of this great contract” or “I’m about to go to insert exciting place name to start a new contract”. I didn’t want my peers to think I was struggling for work and having to temp as a waitress again.
By the same count while I was temping, I’d have questions from those who didn’t understand my unusual life. If they didn’t know what I did they would question why I was temping, particularly as I got older. I remember one such person who said, “If you don’t mind me saying so, you seem very switched on for someone who lives the life you do”. Wow! I went back to the team I was working with regularly that month and spoke about that comment, I asked if that was what they all thought of me. I was so hurt! But my team reassured me and made me see things through different eyes. People are going to ask questions and we should be proud of our colourful lives!
For two decades I lived my dream. I performed the world over from Grimsby to Panama City. But for most, it’s not a long career. Like being an athlete or a footballer, you know at some point you will alter the course and take on a different career as age comes into play. Don’t get me wrong, nobody should be telling you you’re too old to live your dream, I have worked with very talented dancers who were performing well into their 40’s and beyond, it’s personal choice though and for many of us something will be the turning point. I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I wasn’t performing but I knew it wasn’t forever. What did become clear though was that I would know when the time was right because I’d had a few practice runs over the years and within a few months, was right back up there on stage!
Then there was my temp job. I came to realise it wasn’t something I should hide or feel shame about. My temp job meant that I could afford to live between contracts, meant I had the funds to travel to auditions and the flexibility in my work to take the time off for them. It also meant that when I’d been on the road for whatever length of time I had, I could take a break from it all and spend a few months with my family and friends. That amazing network of people who were always there for me. And I started to realise, I had a temp job that I actually enjoyed!
I’d dipped in an out of hospitality since I was student and not only did I enjoy the work, I was pretty good at it. When I moved to Manchester in 2013 that’s when I became a hardcore temp, no more short-term hotel contracts, I became an agency worker! You know you’re a real temp when you literally don’t know where the next days work will take you! I started working for Arc Hospitality.
Over the years, every time I returned home, I returned to Arc. I even started temping in their head office as a recruitment assistant. That’s when I started to wonder, have I found it? The one job that could make me finally retire my dancing shoes. It was the most unbelievable thing because I was a practical worker; I couldn’t sit still for more than half an hour, could I really work in an office? But when the time was right, I knew.
I really had enjoyed the most amazing career on the stage. I’d been lucky enough to meet amazing people, see beautiful places and travel, all while doing a job I loved but I was reaching a point where I wanted, no, needed to unpack. Call somewhere home and just be near to those family and friends that had supported me for so long even as I missed their special occasions because my career had taken precedence. In a right time, right place situation Arc were looking for a new Staffing and Recruitment Coordinator in their Manchester office and suddenly I’d gone from temp to perm! I’d gone there gradually but I’d found the right job that could allow me to make that transition. I’d also found the right team who would support me. I remember one of our company directors saying to me, if you realise this isn’t the right decision for you, I want you to feel comfortable enough to tell me and we then walk away with no hard feelings. Fast forward 3 years and I’ve just celebrated my 3-year, full-time Arc-iversary! It was the right decision.
The great thing for a fidget like me is that it’s not all working 9-5 in a fluorescently lit office either. I have a job where I can still meet people; I have days (and even whole weeks) where I’m on site with our clients and team members, part of the live action of the events scene. Well, I did!
In March 2020 the most unusual thing happened. A global pandemic that changed everything. Suddenly I feel a bit like a temp again, I’m doing a slightly different job, living for the day I can go back to doing what I do best, the new job that I love. This time, it hasn’t felt like my choice, it doesn’t seem to have an end date and it’s taken away everything I am passionate about, live entertainment, large scale events and people.
We’ve all had to make changes, but we remain positive. Some will want to go back to the jobs they loved before the pandemic that have been put on hold, others will have found a new direction. What is important is that whatever we decide, it’s right for us when it’s right for us to do it. There’s no shame in a temp job because you’re doing it for the right reasons for you. There’s no shame in a career break if that’s what you want or need. There’s no shame in living for a dream that right now may seem implausible and there’s no shame in leaving behind what we once loved to take on a new challenge.
You do you and if anyone wants an explanation, give it to them in technicolour!
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