Open Letter to Folks I Overheard at the Bus Stop

“If you’re a temp at 30 something must have gone wrong in your life…”

I couldn’t help but overhear you and I’m sure you have no idea that I work for the same company as you do. Only I’m a temp. And I’m 30.

It probably hasn’t occurred to you that there would be a number of pretty good reasons for one’s career to not be where they would like it to be at a certain age, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that something had “gone wrong.” Not everyone makes it through college knowing exactly what they want to do or where they want to go. And sometimes even when they think they do, they realize later they were wrong.

Sometimes they spend years preparing for a particular career path only to realize that path was wrong for them. Maybe it doesn’t satisfy them as they thought it would, or maybe there aren’t enough employment opportunities in that field, so they realize a shift is preferable to certain long-term career misery.

Sometimes having spent all those years preparing for a specific occupation leaves one’s resume looking a little… sparse and specialized. And not tailored to any other job but the one they thought they wanted.

But now, looking for another job in a new job market, they might find their qualifications are not sufficient to meet the requirements of currently available jobs. And that’s the entry level jobs, so what can they do?

Be a temp. Get experience in other areas in hopes that maybe some random temp job will lead to an opportunity for a full-time, desirable, real job. Hope that somewhere they will find something their now useless education makes them qualified to do, or get enough experience at some new skill to apply for one of those entry level jobs. Slog away at menial tasks at the bottom of the ladder with a crowd of younger competitors in hopes that one of these will lead somewhere worthwhile. Have a million different temporary jobs in a variety of work environments to find the one that suits them best.

So no, maybe nothing has “gone wrong.” Maybe that 30 year old temp has a less linear career path than you. That’s OK. They’re taking the scenic route.

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