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Epic Fails

The Perils of Being an Enthusiastic Temp Epic Fails

The Perils of Being an Enthusiastic Temp
Some people use a pen, I use paper clips

Many students get temp jobs during the university holidays. It’s a great idea. Temping is a fantastic way to earn some money and get some much-needed work experience on your CV. A word of warning though: don’t be overly enthusiastic. Hot Rant, a blog for angry people, tells us why über-keen temps often get landed with the jobs that nobody else wants…


Back in the summer of 2007, as a fresh-faced second year history student, I got myself a job at a housing association in order not to default on my vastly overpriced rent payments. Work began innocently enough: I was presented with a mountain of filing to do and people seemed modestly impressed that I knew what a mail merge was. Having started out doing general office admin, my boss (who could clearly spot an eager-to-please-pushover a mile away) soon began giving me a series of jobs "with more responsibility." For no extra money, I should add.

The people I worked with were lovely people; patient people who cared about helping others. I admire them greatly. The majority of people who live in housing association properties are normal, average, nice people who are just trying to get on with their lives and maybe get someone to fix the leak in their front room. Unfortunately, the vast majority are not the ones ringing you up every day demanding that you find them a four bedroom house in Covent Garden (true story). In fact, the majority of the people who you end up dealing with on a day-to-day basis are either insane, inconceivably angry, or, more commonly, just completely stupid.

One of my first tasks with "more responsibility" was to ring up all the deaf tenants to double check if they were indeed deaf. Please just read that sentence again and take a second to absorb the utter insanity of the project. We were trying to get the attention of people who we suspected were deaf using the medium of sound. After a day or two of calling everybody on the list, I reported back that, unsurprisingly, very few had actually answered the phone. My boss' response was: "We'll have to try calling them at different times of the day. They must have been out." At this point my brain almost melted.

Not long after the deaf person telethon, I was "promoted" (that's the word used on my CV. A more fitting description would be “given a job that everyone else refused to do”). I became transfers administrator. This meant that everyone who wanted to move within the housing association had to contact me, and I then had to explain to them why they were going to be put on a waiting list for two to three years, possibly forever.

Lots of people really, really needed to move due to overcrowding, medical reasons etc. Unfortunately there was nowhere to move them to. There were many, many genuinely sad cases. A family of five living in a one bed flat, with a son who, due to being born with an imperforate anus, had no control over his bowels. The man who, due to his schizophrenia, got irrational urges to jump off ledges, but lived on the fourth floor with a balcony. Seriously, these people all existed, and none of them had any prospect of being able to move in the near future.

Were these the people hassling me every day? Were they hell. People with real problems tended to have some dignity and were polite and accepting of a system that simply sucked. They understood that houses in London couldn't be magic-ed out of nowhere. Instead, I got phone calls every damn day from a plethora of people who seemed to think I was personally vindicating them by not allowing them to move to their dream home.

Yes, I'm talking to you: lady who wanted to live within walking distance of her daughter's school. I'm sorry you couldn't get a ‘move’ but it turns out the government doesn't have a duty to provide you with a house on the specific street you want to live on. If you want to live there, why don't you stop crying about your extremely reasonably-priced accommodation and go and rent privately instead of asking to speak to my manager. You see, there are worse things than having to get the bus to school; for example, having to live in the same room as your mum, your dad, your sister and your brother who physically can't stop defecating all over the place.

There were also two idiots who would ring me up on almost precisely alternate days to berate me for only giving houses to white people/black people and immigrants [delete as appropriate]. I longed for the day when they would call up at the same time, so that I could transfer their calls together. What these fools failed to realise was that calling someone racist over the phone when they had never met you and hence had no idea of your race didn't make any sense.

It was always those with the least to complain about who would demand to have a one-on-one meeting and then spend half an hour shouting at me, demanding I photocopy "important” documents (which turned out to be letters from the housing association, hand annotated with comments such as "Aha!! This PROVES I need a move"). Other notable efforts included a man insisting on a move because his floorboards were moving and he used to work for the Queen. When this didn't seem to be doing the trick, he promptly faked a heart attack.

I think a nadir was reached when I replied in writing to a woman saying “Dear so-and-so, Thank you very much for the picture you sent me... blah blah blah” after she had mailed me a letter with a polaroid picture of her stillborn baby attached. God, I hated this job.

So as I sit here unemployed, contemplating applying for "A recession-PROOF career in recruitment!!" I can still allow myself a brief moment of happiness knowing that at least I'm not doing any of the above anymore.

Image courtesy of banspy, ‘Office Rescue’

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