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When You’re Good At Your Job, People Take Notice

, , , , | Working | March 22, 2022

The summer before my last year of college, I sign up with a temp agency to make some extra pocket money. I make it very clear that I’m still in college and I’m only interested in working during holidays or weekends. I’m not desperate for money and I’m not putting my education in jeopardy over temp work for minimum wage.

Three weeks before the start of the academic year, I’m sent to work in a warehouse. What’s meant to only last a couple of days ends up becoming open-ended — not permanent as I’m still working through the temp agency — but when my contact at the agency calls me to let me know, I remind her that I’m only available until [last Friday before term starts].

The place is dysfunctional.

Example #1: Despite being a warehouse for a major Spanish clothes brand, there’s zero security. No one checks our bags (which we just pile up wherever we like or carry with us) and there are no cameras. Personally, I find this brand’s clothes ugly, especially those for men, and I seriously wonder whether that’s their deterrent.

Example #2: Zero security extends to control over who comes in or leaves. A guy disappears halfway through a shift and reappears a day or two later.

Manager: “Hey, did you leave early the other day?” 

Employee: “Oh, I had a doctor’s appointment.”

Manager: “Okay. Let me know next time.”

Example #3: Another guy disappears halfway through a shift. A couple of days later, I hear the manager say:

Manager: “Hey, didn’t we hire one more guy?”

I just show up every day on time and go about my duties at a reasonable pace, which means I’m soon detected as the “responsible temp” and I’m “promoted” regularly. After a couple of days, they start asking me to do slightly more complex stuff than moving boxes around. By the end of my second week, I’m doing admin rather than manual work.

On my last day, I say goodbye to the people I’ve worked most closely with and disappear into the night to enjoy my last weekend before classes restart.

The following Monday, while I’m on campus, I look at my phone and I have missed calls from the temp agency and a text from my dad, saying the agency called home. This is all like thirty minutes after my shift would have started if I’d continued working there.

I call the agency.

Agency Rep: “Why are you not at work?”

Me: “I told you I would only be available until [last Friday].”

Agency Rep: “But since you were doing so well, we thought you’d stay! They really liked you!”

Sure, like I’m going to choose a minimum-wage temp job that could be terminated at any time with zero notice over completing my final year of university education.

The thing that surprised me the most is that I’d seen guys just vanish from the warehouse and no one seemed to notice until a day or two later, whereas within half an hour of me not showing up, they’d even called my dad. If I was such an essential worker after only three weeks, maybe they could have tried negotiating with me and offering to work around my schedule rather than expecting me to just keep showing up. It probably wouldn’t have worked — I soon found part-time work in my field — but at least I could have stayed another week or two while they found a replacement.

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