The short-term temp work trap

By Jay

I don’t want to write. I feel a deep sorrow and fearful emptiness about the future. I want to displace this feeling and my reality by watching videos online and entering into alternate realities, voices and thoughts. I will watch desultory short ‘junk’ video clips on Youtube, from sport, news, entertainment and so on, well into the night and I will forget but will not enjoy it, as the future will be hovering and these short clips will offer me no real intellectual or emotional pleasure.

I recently accepted a three month temporary job role, to start next week. I feel a sense of deep dread and reluctance for the role. It is a manual labour type role, assisting with setting up training sessions at a university. This is as much as I know and I have a fear that my anxiety and difficulties communicating will make me ineffective and, as a result, disrespected and, also, socially isolated. I am emotionally very vulnerable currently.

Unskilled temporary roles can be a type of junk means of sustenance, I believe, like junk food or entertainment shows. As a means to entering into more stable or secure work, they can serve as a means to an end. For those with alternate forms of income, they can offer ancillary income to sustain their lifestyle. For those who are desperate, they can be a safety net.

However, for a young person, temporary jobs can become, I think, a damaging addiction or trap. They can be easier to attain than longer-term roles, as the criteria for selection is generally relatively low and the application process simplified. Hirers are not concerned about gaps in employment or overly focused on grades or references. Once you get a “gig” through an agency, you gain a credibility making it, possibly, easier to get the next one.

There is an allure of the temporary job for those who are lost about their future and finding their place, including those suffering mental health difficulties. There is the promise of limited commitment and, sometimes, the hourly pay can be attractive, though, such roles do not generally offer the benefits of sick pay or pensions. You can, apparently, defer making any big decisions by taking on temp work. If it doesn’t work out, quitting is, theoretically, simpler.

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Volunteering & working abroad – facing anxiety and doubts: Interview

An interview with C, who I connected with on the volunteer and work exchange site, Workaway, over the past several months, as she has undertaken her travels and work roles. I was curious to know what the experience of volunteering or short-term working, for the first time, in a new country, was like and how she met the challenges she faced, including anxiety.

Nov/Dec 2021

i) How have you found the experience of volunteering in a bed and breakfast in Scotland and what are your next plans?

I feel like I managed to unblock something, as if I was stuck in Belgium (my home country) and needed to get away from everything to actually function. Having seen that I indeed am capable of working, of sustaining myself, I feel empowered and strong. I of course have all my vulnerabilities still. But I feel a bit more sure of myself and my resilience. When I realised that, my dreams emerged again: study something at uni or college and build a life for myself.

I know I am not there yet, I still have a lot of work in front of me before I can think about going to university again. But to get to dreams you need to take small concrete steps. So the first step was accepting the job offer to work as a cleaner in a nice b&b. It will be a quite well paid job and I will be able to keep working on myself, while feeling like I am on top of things financially.

Maybe, who knows, I will be accepted into college in September 2022. Or I will choose another path for myself and decide to work and not focus on academics for a while, get an apartment, and work my way away, trying to live my life. And not survive it.

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Combinations of emotions and disrupted thought that can make a job difficult

By Jay

I went into an office recently to start a temporary work role and lasted only one day, despite the job being well paid and my having been unemployed for a long time. Afterwards, I felt numbness, regret, shame and, also, some confusion as to why I had quit. The trigger, I knew, had been anger but I could not explain why some, in isolation, mildly unsupportive behaviour from my line manager elicited such a strong feeling in me. She had been, at times, friendly and kind but, switched, at other times, to impatience and mild irritability. I found myself feeling deeply hurt and angry.

On reflection, I was experiencing a range of overwhelming and disorientating feelings at the time. I was highly anxious, such that I couldn’t think properly, take in my surroundings or speak freely. At times, I was imagining the voices and faces of former colleagues, from years ago, who I had admired and envied for their confidence and communication. I found myself hearing their voices and imagining what and how they would speak if I was them. My Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) difficulties of discomfort and bloating started coming up and I was afraid that it would make loud growling or gurgling noises.

My anxieties increased when I found out that the job might be quite pressurised, requiring interactions with my manager, who could be stern, and, also, making telephone calls. With the temp jobs I have applied for, often, the precise job duties are not outlined and the ones that are, I have largely forgotten, by the time I receive an offer. I didn’t have to interview for this one as, as with this case, often, the work requires a quick start and for a month or two. I had arrived with little awareness of what I would be doing.

I also was feeling despair, as the role was scheduled for only a month and it likely meant that it would be awkward to apply for or interview for any other roles during that time. Also, by the end, I imagined, I’d likely remain as lost in my path to financial sustenance and intellectual and social development as when I started. The role was data and telephone work and neither filled me with any interest, rather, fear, as the work seemed somewhat pressurised and I am afraid of making calls.

There was a tall man in his fifties in the large, mostly empty office and he spoke loudly and freely whilst I was there, to a few other people dotted around. He criticised the management and decision-making of the organisation and made some humorous comments. He was walking around, which made me think that he was a technician of some sort but I didn’t manage to look at what he was exactly doing. “I like pink and fluffy,” he said, speaking to my manager and referring to some decoration or such that was on a table. “It’s fun. Otherwise, it’s – it’s just work.”

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Cross-purposes of interviewing for jobs with fear and doubt

By Jay

I had an online video interview today. It was for a library and admin type role, with a requirement to be on site a few days a week, located in a town some distance from where I live. I applied for it vaguely thinking that now is the time to move away. However, when I got the interview invitation, the reality of moving away from living with family was difficult to face. I suspect that I won’t have to consider it, in this case – though I have applied for others, as I’m quite sure that I didn’t get selected. I was told I would find out today or next Monday – and as I didn’t receive an email yet, I suppose, the rejections are sent out next week.

I didn’t prepare much at all for the interview. I only really looked up the organisation to avoid embarrassment should I be asked to demonstrate awareness of what they are and do. I also started a few notes on some of my relevant experiences. I was feeling such despair since my attempts to start a job earlier this week, which I quit after a day in a pique of overwhelmed emotions and now regret.

I finally selected an interview date for this one, which would be conducted via Microsoft Teams. It’s an online video call software with other messaging and communication features. I saw that the organisation was conducting, virtually, two solid days of interviews, which made me quite sure that I’d fail. I’ve failed or been unsuccessful, depending on how to think of it, with two interviews in the past weeks.

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