Temp or retail
January 19, 2008 8:55 PM   Subscribe

What do I do to tide myself over until my next real job? Shitty retail work or temp work?

I quit a bad job with a local publication in San Diego. It was my intro to the editorial world, and I was often praised for my work, I have a good recommendation from my old boss, but they treated me badly and there was no where to go in the company (I'd be surprised if they still exist in 5 or 10 years). I quit without anything new lined up, since I have enough money to be jobless for a few months.

Since I got that job so quickly and easily straight out of college, I didn't think it would be too hard to find something similar. Now after a month and a half, it seems that's not the case. Craigslist, mediabistro, and my university's job boards have not turned up much I'm qualified for. Since it looks like it could take a very long time to find a new job in my city, and I don't want to dip into savings if I don't have to, and I'm getting bored, it's time to consider the crappy retail job or temping. I don't know which would be better in this situation; am I likely to make more with an agency versus Borders or similar? Will an agency be able to give me any work that's vaguely editorial? I don't care too much what I do, as long as it's something I can quit easily when a real job comes around again. Specific recommendations for temp agencies in San Diego and getting back on the real editing job track are appreciated.
posted by slow graffiti to Work & Money (28 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You should never be dipping into your savings, in my opinion. I understand if you take a break but should be spending 8 hours looking for a job when you're job searching.

My personal recommendation btw retail part time job and temp work is temp work. I would visit several national temp agencies and meet with the person who's covering the industy of your interest (there are people per industry instead of just administrative temp positions).

Good luck and actively be looking for your next job.
posted by icollectpurses at 9:17 PM on January 19, 2008

Doing temp work you're more likely tpo meet people who may be able to help you find what you're looking for.
posted by theora55 at 9:26 PM on January 19, 2008

Temp! You never know what you'll end up doing in temp work - one day stuffing envelopes, the next making copies, the next making sandwiches, the next doing writing, editing, and page layout, the next scripting and editing a corporate safety videos. When I temped, I felt like a corporate spy, it was much more interesting than retail work. It's also pretty flexible, too -- it's been several years, but I think with most agencies, you call in when you wake up and say you're available and they send you somewhere. I temped when I was in/right out of college and while some of it was kind of weird and sometimes mind-numbing, it was definitely worthwhile experience (and much of it good fodder for writing).
posted by jenh at 9:26 PM on January 19, 2008

Temping is waaaay better than retail, especially for a writer. Ask for reception jobs, and while you sit there waiting for the phone to ring at $20/hr, use their office computer, photocopier, fax machine, and phone to get another job. Or while away the hours doing some freelance writing. I did a LOT of productive writing during a 3-month stint as a temp, including using their computer to write the project that would take me out of temping, and using their phone to seal the deal for my first "real" job. Just make sure you don't do data entry or filing, because with those jobs you actually have to work. Reception is what you're after.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:29 PM on January 19, 2008

Your full time job is finding a new job in your field. In your spare time, you should do whatever pays the most money for the least hours so you can spend more time looking for that job.

posted by Pants! at 9:47 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've done both. Temp. For all the reasons listed above. It doesn't suck as much while you're doing it. And it's more likely to connect you to people who will want to hire you for a real job.

Okay, some retail jobs may be really great and some temp jobs may suck. The race is not always to the swift nor the fight to the strong. But that's the way to bet.
posted by Naberius at 9:48 PM on January 19, 2008

Talk to temp agencies that do hiring for big companies, not agencies that will just put you anywhere today and somewhere else tomorrow. In Seattle, for example, there are many "temp" agencies that hire long-term contracts for Microsoft, Boeing, Adobe, Safeco, etc.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:58 PM on January 19, 2008

Response by poster: Anyone who thinks you can spend 40 hours a week looking for a low level job is nuts, by the way.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:59 PM on January 19, 2008 [5 favorites]

I would go for a temp agency in your field. A lot more oppurtunities for getting a "real job."
I've known a number of people who started off a temp, showed some competency, and got hired on full-time.
Also, the best way to find jobs is through contacts. If you work as a temp somewhere that has jobs in your field, even if you're not temping directly in your field, you can use that job to make contacts to get the job you want.
posted by jmd82 at 10:06 PM on January 19, 2008

Maybe the hard-arsers are right here, but I've spent a lot of time looking for work since moving to a new city, and if I tried to do it 40 hours a week I'd probably be dead. There aren't enough jobs to even apply for here.
posted by sully75 at 10:11 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

And yeah, temping...I've gotten 1 really good job from temping. And one crappy one but at least I knew it was crappy when they hired me.
posted by sully75 at 10:12 PM on January 19, 2008

I've been a full manager in mom-and-pop retail stores (which have a tendency to pay better than corporate ones and have much, much freer environments) and have been paid less than the starting wages for temp jobs. I've had people interviewing me not believe the wages I was paid for almost singlehandedly running a small business, even though those were standard wages where I worked.

Funny enough, I just interviewed at a temp agency and was asked if I wanted to work for the agency itself, so you never know what can happen.
posted by griphus at 11:44 PM on January 19, 2008

"Where I worked" being the neighborhood (East Village, NYC), not just the shop itself.
posted by griphus at 11:45 PM on January 19, 2008

I don't know, if I were looking for a job, working in a Borders would sound infinitely better than answering the phone in some wretched office filled with depressing cubicle-dwellers. Having to be re-initiated into office politics every time I got a new temp assignment would also suck.

Since you are trying to build a career as a journalist, it does not seem that temp work would offer many prospects for long-term employment.

I think retail sounds better for you.
posted by jayder at 12:43 AM on January 20, 2008

You could freelance doing online / Web editing. There's quite a lot of online publications nowadays ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 2:30 AM on January 20, 2008

Temp work. A three-day mail-merge assignment turned into 6 weeks where I helped edit a national organization's Professional Practices document; a three day data-entry assignment turned into a chance to write code in a very freaky proprietary language. Not that I got paid anywhere near what those assignments were worth, but it was more fun.
posted by orthogonality at 4:12 AM on January 20, 2008

I don't know, if I were looking for a job, working in a Borders would sound infinitely better than answering the phone in some wretched office filled with depressing cubicle-dwellers.

This is almost exactly why I went into retail (a bookseller at Borders actually) instead of temping after I graduated from college and had no idea what I wanted to do. A decade later I'm still with the same company, but at the home office as a business analyst. Not sure how applicable this is to the OP though, as I didn't have an existing career plan/desire at the time (and if I got laid off now I would probably temp).
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:48 AM on January 20, 2008

nthing temping. I signed up with Kelly Services on a Thursday and impressed them with my skills and experience. Started work on a Monday on a three-month assignment, and then lucked out when someone quit in my last week, and I was hired on permanently. And this isn't a stuffing envelope job. It's exactly the kind of job I wanted, but didn't know existed in my town because the company doesn't advertise their job openings.

There are a lot of companies that would rather hire through a temp agency and don't do as much direct hiring. So you may get opportunities that would never come up if you were just looking at help wanted ads or sending resumes.
posted by saffry at 6:12 AM on January 20, 2008

nthing temp work. I've gotten hired on permanently at both the places I've temped. It wasn't what I originally wanted but it worked out pretty well.
posted by desjardins at 8:30 AM on January 20, 2008

I don't think jayder has ever actually held a temp job, because what he's describing is nothing like it. You don't have to care about the office politics -- they don't affect you at all -- and while you do occasionally land in wretched offices filled with depressing cubicle-dwellers, well, for you it's only temporary. For them, it's permanent. Makes all the difference in the world.

More importantly: temping in your chosen field gives you the chance to shop around, and find out which offices aren't soul-crushing and awful. Even temping for companies that have nothing to do with what you really want to be doing can be valuable: I think I learned more about what makes good companies good from my year of temping than from the whole rest of my career, just from being able to see so many different examples.
posted by ook at 9:23 AM on January 20, 2008

Temp work. If you do really well, they may pressure you into staying, or you might find yourself at a job with more responsibility than you want given your commitment level. If that happens though, you can always just move on to another temp job.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:00 AM on January 20, 2008

I applied to temp with my university after moving back to town, and the gods smiled down on me as a temp job immediately opened in my chosen field (Asia-related) and less than 3 months later, it turned into a permanent position with incredible benefits and a decent salary. Even better, I get to do a lot of graphic design stuff that I've always enjoyed but have no professional-level qualifications in, so I'm building skills in a whole range of areas and meeting tons of people in the line of work I want to pursue. Retail work tends to suck your energy and soul, and very few new/exciting opportunities will ever come up - even if temping somewhere sucks, it's not the end of the world and may not last more than a few months, whereas retail is the same day in and day out.
posted by muscatlove at 11:17 AM on January 20, 2008

If you temp, don't expect to be able to temp in anything even vaguely journalism related.

For that matter, if you are expecting to get a job in journalism in your city, stop. If you're serious about journalism, every single journalist I know has moved around like crazy. You follow the jobs, they don't follow you. Start checking the journalism job boards. If you keep waiting around for a job to show up in your area -- which is in a big enough market that anyone other than a fly-by-night is unlikely to hire a recent grad -- you will be disappointed.

I speak from personal experience here. Stop being attached to your area. You may find you like other parts of the country better!
posted by InnocentBystander at 11:20 AM on January 20, 2008

Temp, for all the reasons given above, plus it may let you keep (some of your) office technology skills from getting too rusty and can get you new ones on a long assignment.
posted by dilettante at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2008

Response by poster: InnocentBystander- so say I expand my search to include at least all the West Coast, maybe anywhere in the country. Wouldn't trying to get hired in a more competitive market like LA be even harder? If no one is hiring recent grads here, is anyone? I would move to most mid size or major metro areas with a job in hand, but I doubt anyone would even pay for my plane ticket for an interview if I'm just interviewing to be an editorial assistant, right?
posted by slow graffiti at 3:50 PM on January 20, 2008

Temp, yes. Work in a different capacity at a place where the kind of work you want to be doing is done, yes. Retail, no.
posted by davejay at 4:07 PM on January 20, 2008

I think if you are thinkign about working in journalism, you need to think small. As in small town. As in Podunk Iowa's town paper. It's going to be really hard to get hired in a big city. You could intern, if you are just out of school. But as far as getting paid, I believe you will have a really hard time.

I think there is a journalismjobs.net or something like that.
posted by sully75 at 9:11 AM on January 21, 2008

I've had plane tickets paid for by newspapers that wanted me in an assistant editor position. If they're cheap bastards they'll put you on Greyhound, though.
posted by InnocentBystander at 1:49 PM on January 21, 2008

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