Posted by: emjb | August 18, 2007

I hit the trifecta

I have been hired 3 times this week. I still have two of those jobs!

Let me explain. No…let me sum up.

Job 1: temp job, worked one day, got a call to Job 2 (better temp job), quit. Felt guilty, got over it.

Job 2: better temp job, cool office, cool people, INSANE work hours. But it doesn’t matter because on the first day, got a call for Job 3 (insurance job). They upped my offer 6k! I agonize briefly because Job 2 is so cool, but also, so INSANE. I accept Job 3. I have not yet told Job 2 about Job 3, because Job 3 doesn’t need me until my background check/drug test results come back. And I want to make as much money as possible in the meantime. So I might as well work Job 2 for next week.

Job 3: is having snippets of my hair processed for opiates, and possibly tut-tutting over my less-than-stellar credit history, but my lack of criminal convictions (for now!) will probably mean everything’s fine.

So on Monday I’ll let Job 2 know I’m just a temp, not a temp-to-perm like they wanted. But honestly…they should have just made me an offer if they wanted me to stay. Though I’m glad they didn’t. I might have said yes, and by now I would be having buyer’s remorse.

The first day there, I was a little giddy. It’s very seductive, the all-IKEA, Mac-only, hip-and-stylish office in a hip part of downtown vibe. I loved my desk, it had an awesome view, and liked being around “the creatives” as they’re called, working on big-name clients, enjoying the catered lunch.

But (and I assume many ad agencies have this problem) you are expected to give up the rest of your life to do this job. People are working 8am-11pm some days, weekends, etc. and I would have to do the same, at least some of the time. I would never see Nathan. I like my desk and my view, but I don’t want to have to put a pallet bed and a change of clothes in there and make it my new home. I love creative people, but nobody there has the time to tell me about their fascinating weekend projects or the indie movies they saw, because they’re sweating their 8 deadlines a day.

I have a serious beef with this way of working; it’s wasteful, and it’s disrespectful. Many companies that do this are the kind that use “creatives,” despite the fact that creatives need rest and downtime to remain creative. And the rest of us need it to remain balanced, sane and healthy. And while “the client” always gets blamed, it’s really just greed and/or stinginess on management’s part. If you have too much work for your people to handle in a 40 hour week, you need more people. Period.

This place, in particular, has a lot of Pacific coast clients, which means to me that those who handle those clients should come in at 10 and work till 7. And in general, that they need staggered shifts for all their teams, as a way of rotating out the exhausted ones. But that’s not been done, or anything else to alleviate the strain. After two days, I can see that everyone in there is on the edge of burnout, and like I said, that’s wasteful. Why bother hiring and training someone when you’re going to drive them off and have to start over? If you treat them decently, they’ll stay a long time. Even a temp like me would be more use to them if they actually managed the chaos instead of leaning on their staff until they break. As it is, I have to scramble up the learning curve and then take off because they’re not willing to invest in my position.

This place really made me homesick for my NY job, actually. It too had a lot of creatives, and plenty of crises, but they made us go home and discouraged working on weekends, and generally, treated us well. And people stayed there for years. I would have too, if I could have. It means something to have work you like to do with people who are like you, in a place where you are allowed to have a life and value.

That kind of respect means a lot more than money, in the long run, to most people. It gives you room to have a life rather than just an existence.

And that’s why I’m going with the more-boring insurance job, without a cool desk or a window view or lots of interesting people around. I won’t get the coolness points, but I will get to see my kid every day, and leave my job at the door when I go home. Maybe parenting has mellowed me, or maybe I’m just tired of killing myself for a pat on the head followed by a new batch of impossible deadlines.



  1. Last year, in order to reduce my stress levels and increase my chances of getting pregnant, I left a very challenging job with interesting people. I also left because I was overworked and underpaid. I was in business journalism, which doesn’t pay. Anyway, I had, with a few exceptions, a group of very smart coworkers.

    Now I work for the state, which is similar to an insurance agency. Most folks here are in hibernation until retirement. Most of my coworkers don’t have much post-secondary education. However, the state mandates that it’s employees only work 37.5 hours per week. So my work life is contained, and I really enjoy that. I no longer work weekends! I no longer stay after business hours are closed!

  2. Yeah. It’s a shame there’s not a middle ground, isn’t it?

  3. Love the “Princess Bride” allusion. 🙂

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