Today was my last day at my temp job. After almost a year of unemployment or underemployment, I scored a temporary position at a company that deals with parts for locomotives. What did I do for them? I scoured their Oracle database and removed duplicate data, updated data, and generally just cleaned out their “junk drawer,” as my (awesome) manager called it. Over 14 years’ worth of bad information: gone, thanks to me. In some cases, I removed over 50% of the addresses in the lists for various customers. Now that their data is squeaky clean, they can implement a purchase order automation system which will help save paper and human effort, resulting in some pretty great savings. In thanks, they took me to lunch today and got me an ice cream cake. I was touched. I felt so appreciated! I know I worked hard–sometimes I’d get a headache from staring down rogue data for hours on the computer screen–but I’m delighted to know that my hard work will help other people to do their jobs more efficiently.
So what did I learn? Lots!
Having a knowledgeable, compassionate leader with a vision for the project makes a difference.
It was my first time in a temp job. I had a very specific goal and a really terrific manager. She was enthusiastic about the work, made time to teach me what I needed to know, and celebrated even my smallest successes. I can’t express how helpful this was as I trudged through buckets of data. (Let’s remember that my background is in writing and editing…) She was hands-down the best manager I’ve ever had. The project and my role in it were crystal clear to me on day one, and my mission–which I did choose to accept–was to fulfill her well-defined expectations. Instead, I blew them away.
Doing more than is expected isn’t expected.
Faced with piles of spreadsheets, sometimes I was filled with dread. But I decided early on that I wanted to do my very best because this was not my area of expertise. So instead of just removing the bad data, I also fixed up the good data. Example: I removed bad addresses (not used recently), but for the good addresses (used recently) I corrected spelling, fixed postal codes and tax codes, looked up Canadian provinces, and contacted customers about “Attention: So-and-so” fields. This way the data was as clean as it could be. My boss was stunned. She was so excited that I took the initiative to really make things great.
Making positive contacts is key.
As a temp, I was hired by the temp agency but performed work for the locomotive parts company. The company paid the agency, who paid me. It behooved me to keep positive contacts at both. The company wanted to keep me beyond my temporary period (!), but because the temp agency saw my potential, they helped me land a full-time job, which was supposed to be another temp job! I was delighted to feel like I am talented, valued, and liked. (After being unemployed for so long and *not* getting interviews, this feels AMAZING.) Both the temp agency and the company I temped for were so positive about my experience and staying in touch that I can’t help but be excited about the work that I did and the work I will do. I start my new job on Monday.
It’s okay to run out of work.
I did. Several times. It made my manager laugh because projects she thought would take me a week only took days, things that might have taken days only took me a handful of hours. Each time I would tell her I was out of work, I could tell she was glad she chose to hire me. (She also told me this on a regular basis.) When you run out of work–as long as you’re not sluffing off or doing a shoddy job–it says “I can do this. May I have some more?” My eagerness and diligence were well received each and every time.
I will always value vacation and sick time. And benefits.
I started this temp job when I was coming off a really awful cold. Then I caught another cold. There were a few days I would have much rather stayed in bed, but knowing that I wouldn’t get paid for the time I took off forced me out the door. My car also decided to blow the radiator at one point. (My manager drove me to work.) I couldn’t afford to not be paid. (Just like in my many part-time jobs before.) I’ve always thought it was nice to have vacation and sick time, but saw it as something standard that employees deserve. Well, now that I’ve worked for over a year without it? It’s a treasure. Also–health benefits? Can I tell you how happy I am to see my dentist again?! And I’ll be getting an annual check-up to follow my pheochromocytoma this year. (I had to skip last year because I couldn’t afford it.)
I’m really excited to start my new job on Monday. I’ll be working at a project coordinator at a civil engineering firm. Their headquarters just so happens to be in Pittsburgh.