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  • Gina DePelsMaeker

What I Wish I Had Known

I was a "temp" for 8 years. Here's what you should know about temp agencies.

It is time to call out temp work for what it really is. The temp assignment I accepted became eight years of temp work between two long term assignments at Dow Inc. Kelly IT Services led me to believe this assignment would lead to a permanent hire—it did not. A hostile environment forced me to end the second assignment which was at a pay rate less than the starting rate of first. For eight years, I worked for a Fortune 500 temp agency—they assigned me to a Fortune 100 corporation. My assignment “resold” my technical services as tenant support to large international corporations. I had no health insurance benefits. My 401K has the lasting impact of receiving no match over all that time. There are a thousand times more stories like mine than successful ones. Anyone I have met working a temp assignment had the hope of a permanent hire. My hopes are now wishes to fix regrets.

I wish I had known how slim the odds were of being hired to Dow through Kelly IT Services. I learned too late that permanent Dow positions were being replaced with permatemps and over half of Dow’s workforce did not even work for them.

I wish I had known the path of temp work was far from that of a career. My temp job was absent of any mentorship or coworkers willing to network. Instead, exclusion existed, and the environment encouraged it. I did the same type of work under eight managers over eight years. No one was trying me out to give me a shot…only making my life trying. Temp agencies should be forbidden from career fairs.

I wish I had known temp workers were “the switch” on my assignment. In the month of December, if budgets were not met, managers could pull “the switch” furloughing temp workers. This way, permanent employee team members received their annual bonuses, and no lay-off report was required to shareholders. Decembers were full of anxiety for me—I feel ashamed my family went through that for so long. Would the shareholders be ashamed—did they already know? I wish I had known I was signing up to be held accountable for missed budgets.

I wish I had understood that a 12 month non-compete clause existed in my pre-employment paperwork. What would be the purpose of this other than to trick me? My education and my skills are only proprietary to me…the fruits of my own labor. How could it have been legal to block me from opportunity and lock me into working for the prosperity of others?

It is time to call out temp work for what it really is and all the behaviors that have bred under this guise. This is the socially responsible thing to do. I wish I had known how damaging a temp job would ultimately be.

About the Author

Gina DePelsMaeker is a member of the National Temp Worker Council, supported by Temp Worker Justice, and is from Michigan. She's motivated by her experience as a temp worker to help others, and has been speaking out publicly about how temp agencies prevent career advancement for temp workers. Her story was featured a recent publication by Temp Worker Justice and the National Employment Law Project, Temps in Tech.

Contact us if you're interested in sharing your experience as a temporary worker - we can answer your questions and help with writing or editing.


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