Should I quit my temp job or am I just being fussy?
May 18, 2014 3:49 AM   Subscribe

Last week, after 5 months of unemployment and desperation I managed to get a minimum wage temp job through an agency. On my first day I was incredibly excited to have finally found a job, but quickly realised that I hate it. It's a data entry position, inputting handwritten inventory data into a database. Basically the job is incredibly tedious, there is no variety, I'm doing exactly the same repetitive task for 7.5 hours a day. I'm basically working by myself in an office with other people and can't really talk to anyone because it distracts me. I can't really leave to take a break because the office door is locked and someone has to let me in every time. They are nice to me though and tell me to take regular breaks but there is nowhere to go.

I've been suffering from depression and recently went through a breakup so I'm basically stuck in my own head ruminating the whole time I'm working, which is incredibly draining and is making me feel even worse. I'm allowed to listen to music/podcasts but this doesn't really help. I've also had problems with wrist pain/aching in the past from computer usage and within 3 days of working my pain has come back. I've also got the stress/pressure of being the only one doing the job to get everything right and get through 1000s of pages of data over the length of the assignment. By the end of the day my motivation is basically zero.

Am I just being fussy? Should I just deal with it and stick it out for another week and a half (the length of the assignment) or should I quit? I don't want to be seen as a quitter and am scared that I have an entitlement complex and that my standards are too high for finding a job. I just want a job which is okay and that makes me feel neutral, not necessarily happy. Is that too much to ask?
posted by fallingleaves to Work & Money (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you really, truly, honestly can't hack it, then, well, you can't hack it.

But if it's only for another week and a half? Hack it. As much as you can.
If you get a better job, it will feel SO MUCH better in comparison. Because this is so far sounding like a standard shitty office job.

Tips to make it better:
* What's the worst that happens if you do a bad job? You leave. Like you're wanting to now. So, don't worry about doing a good or bad job. You're doing what you can do, and if they have problems with that, they'll get someone else in.
* Stretch on those breaks, perform anti-RSI movements
* Get better podcasts/music. Dan Savage was pretty good, because I could zone in and out, but other peoples relationship issues were a distraction from my own life. Listen to some CBT/self help podcasts (even positive thinking hypnosis tapes).
* Make sure you have some kind of interaction with 7 people a day. Getting a head nod an smile from a stranger counts, a shop assistant who doesn't look at you while cashing you up, doesn't.

I think you're right that it's depression and the relationship breakup that is making you miserable. I wouldn't count on quitting the job helping that.
posted by Elysum at 4:00 AM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a temporary assignment. A week and a half. I urge you to stick it out, grit your teeth, and get through it. If I were in your shoes and I did it I'd feel really good about completing the task. If I quit I'd beat myself up for a lot longer than a week and a half about it. Hell, I walked away from a temp job almost ten years ago that was similar to this and I still feel residual guilt over it.

Sticking it out means money and will put you in good grades with whomever hired you, potentially opening you up to better things in the future. Leaving has no benefit other than not having to do something you dislike for another 8 to 10 days. You can do it. Figure out a good small treat for the end of every day (ice cream works for me!) and a nice treat for the end of the assignment (I take myself out to the movies and dinner) and relish those treats because you earned them!

Good luck.
posted by sockermom at 4:04 AM on May 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

You took the job out of desperation. It is only another week and a half. Stick it out.
posted by amro at 4:08 AM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you plan on staying with this temp agency? Because quitting is going to be a black mark against you and you may find they are less willing to out you up for another job.
posted by Aranquis at 4:09 AM on May 18, 2014 [24 favorites]

If it is as short term as you say hack it. I've done tedious data entry, with nowhere to go during breaks etc and and that was without being allowed to listen to music or podcasts or what not. I just gave myself little challenges for example targets how fast I could get through my lists. When I beat the target I gave myself a new one. Go for a short walk during your breaks, stretch etc. Go outside to check your emails and have a drink. Don't think of it as a whole week and a half, think of it as time until lunch, time until you leave for the day and so on and so forth.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:10 AM on May 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Stick it out for the next couple weeks so that you have some money in your pocket and you get in good with the temp agency. It's better to be sad and be out of your house making money than to be sad and sitting alone at home and not making money.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:50 AM on May 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I worked as a temp maybe 15 years ago. I got my first job, and it was filing for 3 straight days. Locked in a room filing. Like you, I had just had some major life drama and was also locked in my own head. I was dying to bail the whole time, and this was even before podcasts and whatever else to occupy my mind. It was terrible and dispiriting and I hated every minute of it. The only thing keeping me there was knowing that if I wanted better jobs down the road, the only way to get there was to suck it up.

After that was over, I got my second job. Stuffing envelopes. 2200 envelopes needed to be stuffed with 9 pages of crap, and the pages had to be in order. Again, in a room by myself. Again locked in my head. I had a degree! I knew how to do very useful things, and here I was stuffing envelopes.

The man who hired me came in to chat while I was working. I don't know, maybe it was a slow day. I started joking around that I was happy I had gone to school so I could stuff envelopes. This was in an HR dept, so he started basically interviewing me as I worked. We discovered we had both worked for the same company previously. To make a long story short, I finished that assignment in about 6 hours instead of three days, he discovered I could solve a computer problem he had been having, and I wound up staying 5 years. I moved on to working with their HR system, to automating all the processes in the dept, building their new HR database and revamping all their procedures to better fit with technology. When I left they were asking me to come on full time every other day or so. I doubled my rate in a year, and almost quadrupled it in 5.

TL;DR: stick it out. You never know what might happen.
posted by nevercalm at 4:54 AM on May 18, 2014 [38 favorites]

Do not quit. Do not quit. Nope nope nope. I've been through this temp agency stuff. Your first assignments will be the yuck assignments that that no one wants - partly because they don't know what kind of a worker you are. If you quit this, you'll mess up your relationship with the agency and do yourself out of better assignments later.

Don't get me wrong - temp jobs are almost always pretty blah. But you really, seriously can't afford to be fussy when you are starting out with an agency.

I ended up with tolerable and better paying assignments later on after soldiering through the first, really cruddy ones.
posted by Frowner at 5:13 AM on May 18, 2014 [18 favorites]

Gut it out. It is short term and at best it may open some opportunities for you, at worst it's only a week and a half! Of work!
posted by biscotti at 5:16 AM on May 18, 2014

Stick it out. You're not being fussy, it really does suck, but it's what you've got for this next week and a half. Tough it out, be friendly, get a good report back to the agency, and hope they can find something better for you.

You can see a lot of people have been there...
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 5:22 AM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

A week and a half? Don't quit. People have put up with lousy jobs for years at a time, and that's frequently cited as a positive trait. Even a truly great job can occasionally present awful situations that last for months, so imagine how skittish hiring managers get when someone can't keep going for less than two weeks. You have my sympathies, but don't shoot yourself in the foot unnecessarily.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:33 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is what temping is. If you quit you'll piss off the agency and they'll be less likely to give you future assignments. If you stay they'll know you're reliable and will give you more work, most of it probably better. You need to stick it out.
posted by something something at 5:37 AM on May 18, 2014

Ugh. I had a similar temp assignment fresh out of school. I made the mistake of complaining about my wrists hurting in the office, and they ended the assignment.

See if there's anything you can do in the way if adjusting your chair, getting a better mouse pad, those gel pads for your wrists, etc. to help make your workspace more comfortable.
posted by bunderful at 5:39 AM on May 18, 2014

Stick with it, and leave knowing you made it work despite your depression.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:40 AM on May 18, 2014

Put up with the job. I did data entry on a temp basis for a few years, as temp jobs go it's not the worst and its a good one to get work at as its a thing offices often need help with. It takes practice to get into the mind set, make sure to take regular breaks. Every couple of hours at least take give minutes, even if it's just at your desk top test your eyes and stretch.
posted by wwax at 5:41 AM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

This may be another mind game to play with yourself - you're toughening up your brain for "making license plates" kinds of jobs. No matter how high you get in career/life, you can be assured that you'll find yourself doing something from time to time in your job that is deadly dull.

I was once hired for a job that I thought was outside B2B sales (which I enjoyed doing) and it turned out to be "wear a headset and grind out cold calls for 8 hours a day with serious black marks against you if you take breaks." It was hell, but you know what? I learned that I could do that if I had to, and NORMAL levels of making phone calls for business dev. don't scare me anymore.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:48 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Imagine you're a dancer and this is a little avant-garde piece called "Entry of the Data." Now keep practicing until you're performing it like you've never performed before. Performing as best as you possibly could? Imagine you're now doing a stage run of a week and a half.

Perform well and people will likely notice.

To help with the pain try some tips using the Alexander technique. In a nutshell it's about keeping your body and muscles fluid and not tensed in anything that you do.
posted by alusru at 6:09 AM on May 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Definitely do what you can/ask for adjustments to minimise the arm pains, because that can stick around if you're not careful. Force yourself to slow down if there's scope to do that and still hit your targets; ask if better kit/different chairs etc are available.

I agree with the suggestion above to break time down into the smallest units possible. I've had working days where I've paused to give myself a little "congratulations" every five minutes, just for getting through that five minutes. Then I've allowed myself a couple of deep breaths by way of a break, then carried on.

Take all the breaks you can, even if the only thing you can do with them is walk down the corridor and stretch (who cares if they have to let you back in? It's no big deal to open a door). Get outside if you possibly can.

Try and find something cheering outside work to help you switch off from work when you leave - ice cream, an exercise class, a coffee in a favourite cafe on the way home.

This kind of work is miserable, and it feels like it'll last forever when you're doing it, but suck it up if you possibly can. If you stop, you won't feel any happier, you'll just be still inside your head and also beating yourself up for quitting.
posted by penguin pie at 6:26 AM on May 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

another week and a half (the length of the assignment)

am scared that I have an entitlement complex and that my standards are too high for finding a job.

A week and a half? I thought you were telling us about a long term permanent job. A week and a half is nothing.


Ironically, you added to your job stress by typing & posting this very question! Stop typing (including emails and text messages). Don't quit this gig.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:45 AM on May 18, 2014

You should stick it out, and if you know what accommodations you need for your wrist pain, you should ask about getting those. They might not be willing to make significant investments for a temp, but once you've asked, you've laid the groundwork for taking plenty of short breaks to stretch your wrists.

As far as the scope of your assignment - if your targets are insanely unrealistic, talk to someone. I know extending this job is the last thing you want to think about right now, but based on my own experiences, a lot of dull jobs don't plan on people sticking around, so they just try to get as much as they can out of someone in a short period of time. If accuracy is important, and that's at risk due to the speed requirements, and they're satisfied with your work so far, it might be negotiable.

Temp work is generally a grind of some kind, but it can lead to unexpected opportunities if you're pleasant and reliable. Staying in the good graces of your agency is important to getting better assignments later.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:18 AM on May 18, 2014

Don't quit. Buy an audiobook version of David Foster Wallace's The Pale King and listen to it while you work. Boredom is transcendance. :)
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:37 AM on May 18, 2014

Yeah monkey work sucks, but it's part of the whole temp thing. But, work is work, and money is money. Don't quit, and take your breaks! I can not emphasize that enough. No wonder you're feeling overwhelmed. I never smoked, but I used to take "smoke breaks" or "phone breaks" and chat with the smokers outside or just make phone calls. Any kind of fresh air or time away from the computer screen is refreshing. Walk around, shake your arms out, do something besides sit and type. You'd be amazed how much it helps.

Listen to your music. I know you say it doesn't help, but it's a bit of a distraction. Also, don't think of you being the "only one" to go through all that data. They hired you to do it this time, but you're probably not the first nor the last. It's simply work that needs to be done, and they wait until there's enough of it to do before hiring someone to enter it into the system. I've been in your shoes before. Just do it and do it well. Don't stress yourself over it. See this job through, and you start building a reputation as a good worker. It goes a long way.

Stick it out.
posted by patheral at 8:00 AM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses everyone, I've decided to stick with the job for now and take your advice on board.

I've just had really good news, I've been offered a job interview for what seems to be a decent full time job that I applied for a while ago. It's on Friday though, a day I'm meant to be working and it's far away though so I probably will need at least half a day off to get there.

If I speak to the agency tomorrow and can't get the day/half a day off work, what should I do then?
posted by fallingleaves at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Can you schedule your interview for a more convenient time next week? "I'm working that day" is not an excuse that will make you look bad.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:49 AM on May 18, 2014

Response by poster: I'm working every day unfortunately.
posted by fallingleaves at 11:51 AM on May 18, 2014

The flip side of your not having any kind of job stability or paid time off is that they can't reasonably expect you not to take unpaid time off with little notice. Too much and of course they'll find someone else to sit in your chair, but you can generally get away with occasional short absences in any gig longer than a couple of days.

I don't ask my agency or worksite supervisor whether I can take time off, I tell them I'm going to do so, then ask if there's anything I need to do to make that easier for them. I don't usually bother giving reasons, because I'm not being compensated well enough to provide reasons.

Tempin' ain't easy. Good luck getting a real job, because the temp market isn't what it was ten years ago. Anecdote: after 4.5 days of a really crap filing job I called my agency at lunch on Friday and asked if they could find something else for me. They asked if I could possibly hold out until the end of the day (I was surprised by the question, as I wouldn't have planned on leaving them in the lurch like that) and had a new, better job for me Monday morning.

One other thing: temp or permanent, if you don't take ergonomics seriously you'll eventually wish you had. No matter how good the health benefits you get might be, they can't buy you new wrists or do much to refurb your lower back. My advice on dealing with this as a temp (and therefore limited in what you can request of your employers): first, adjust the hell out of everything you've got, then figure out what else is lying around that you can use for the task. Office supply catalogs are large and make good monitor height adjusters or foot rests. It's possible they have official monitor stands or copy stands whatever in a closet somewhere, too.
posted by asperity at 3:42 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's no real question of being able to take the time off to go to the interview, it's just whether you lose the temp assignment to do so which wouldn't be the end of the world. You tell the agency you are only available to work during X time on Friday (or the whole day if you have to). If they ask for a reason, you can say you have an interview for a full time position or you can simply remain vague and say you've had something personal come up which you have to take care of. (I don't really know if vagueness is "best practice" but I think it's OK) They'll either say "cool, that's fine." or maybe take you off the assignment and if they're dicks, penalize you going forward. But I bet they'll be fine with it. As thereemix says, temping is temporary and shouldn't take equal importance with real job priorities.

" I can't really leave to take a break" No, no, no! Take your breaks!! It doesn't matter if you have to "bother" someone to let you back in the room. Based on several parts of your question/follow-up, it sounds like you don't like to "put people out" by asking for simple things which are your right as an employee/person. Stand up for yourself and don't just let things slide because you're desperate for work. A good employer will be happy to make reasonable accommodations to keep you a happy, productive employee. This kind of thing is even more important in the longer term positions you are seeking where you'll need to represent and negotiate for yourself when talking about pay, benefits, and day to day working conditions. Listen, learn, but also speak up!
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:03 PM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

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