I came to New York to be an actor. I’d much rather be onstage or in front of a camera than behind a desk, but when you have rent to pay and no acting jobs currently coming in, temp-ing is necessary. When you think about it, all acting jobs are temp jobs too, so I guess practice makes perfect. Instead of lamenting my status as a “gypsy worker,” I decided to make a pros/cons list to temp-ing in NYC!
The Perks of Being an NYC Temp Worker While Trying to Be An Actress:
1. FREE office coffee. It may not always be Starbucks (unless you’re temping for the Starbucks HQ or in my current case, a Starbucks-affiliated company, Barnes & Noble Corporate HQ), but it’s hot, freshly made, will keep you awake while you’re staring at a computer screen all day, and did I mention it’s FREE? It’s okay to splurge once in awhile on your morning cup of joe for something like the Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte (my personal fave) or Peppermint Mocha, but like the McDonalds McRib and Monopoly season (I’ve come to the conclusion I will never get that damned Boardwalk piece to match my Park Place for the $1 million prize), all good corporate promotions/seasonal items must come to an end, so just bring a travel mug and stop shelling out for expensive coffee when the free stuff does the trick just as well.
2. Discovering new parts of New York City. Unless you work with a shitty, backchannel temp agency (By that, I mean you work for the Mob, Mafia, or other underground organized crime ring, which I won’t judge you for because you’re probably making more money than I am, and your life has a better chance of becoming a gritty Martin Scorsese movie nominated for like, twelve Oscars), you probably won’t be venturing to some of the seedier parts of the City and its burroughs. I’m currently working in the Union Square area. Next week, I might be in Midtown, the Flatiron District, Chelsea, the Upper East Side, or the Financial District. I get to explore all sorts of areas of the Big Apple without taking the Circle Line Bus and finding out where all the celebrities live (It’s called Google, people.).
3. No office drama. Though sometimes you’ll receive longer gigs, most of your work will probably be no longer than a week or two at a lot of places, which means there’s not enough time to really get involved in any office fights or gossip unless you’re really trying or are filming a reality series for E!, MTV, VH1, or Bravo. And let’s face it: you’re probably not going to be on one of those networks unless you happen to be something people in red states deem as “controversial.” Anyway, being a temp means (most likely) never getting into table-flipping catfights.
4. Pretending to be on Mad Men. If you are hip or care about high quality, niche dramatic television or possibly lived through the 1960s or just have a thing for skinny ties and sleek suits (or in my case, most of the above and I have an inappropriate crush on the dreamy Jon Hamm), you probably are a fan of Mad Men. Every new office is a new chance to pretend I’m actually roaming the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Price where I’m bound to have a steamy, albeit Old-Fashioned induced tryst with Don Draper or greet representatives from Lucky Strike in a sexy Joan Holloway manner (though I will never have Christina Hendricks’ impressive, um, “accessories.”). This can, of course, lead to problems if you have a long-term temp job and are constantly boozing, smoking, and seducing your way around the office, because not only will your work performance suffer, people might think you’re a drunken whore who sounds like Harvey Fierstein.
5. You get to work a variety of jobs. Though I have a slew of secretarial/receptionist gigs lined up, most temp agencies have big projects come through they need people for such as the U.S. Open (Hellooooo Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer!), designer sample sales, trade shows, and holiday promotional gigs. So even though this week I’m stuck behind a desk, next week I might be donning a Santa hat and selling specialty toys or wearing Ralph Lauren and helping people to their expensive seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium whilst ogling Nadal’s very fine derrière. It’s a little bit of everything that will make for great anecdotes in magazine interviews profiling my (impending) rise to stardom.
6. Learning how different companies operate. Actors are excellent observers, so I try to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can. It never hurts to actually know what the company you’re working for really does just in case you actually want to work there someday if you get tired of waiting in lines for auditions at 6 am everyday. Also, I’m just nosy. That’s why I stare at people on the subway too.
7. Meeting lots of new people. Goodbye EHarmony and Match.com!
8. Meeting lots of new people. Temp-ing provides all the perks (making lots of fast connections) of a New York City swanky party minus all the actual perks (booze) of a New York City swanky party. You never know who might be able to advance your career or just want to add you to their Facebook friends list so they can stalk all your photos and then awkwardly comment on them all.
9. Paychecks. Sure, it’s not like you’re rolling in the Benjamins (like apparently a lot of rappers do…or at least, that’s my impression based on their lyrics and music videos), but at least it’s a decent paycheck to help pay the rent and the highway-but-actually-train robbery known as Unlimited Ride Metro Cards from the MTA. As any actor will tell you, any paycheck is a welcome paycheck (a fact which Nicolas Cage’s more-recent film credits currently reflect.).
10. Different bosses/supervisors. I’ve had my share of strict and not-so-strict bosses (luckily, most of them have been the latter). If you can’t stand your boss because she’s an ice-maven a la Miranda Priestly in Devil Wears Prada or he’s a “that’s what she said”-ing doofus a la Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin, thankfully your job will be a quickie rather than working under them for forever. That’s what she said.
The Cons of Being an NYC Temp Worker While Trying to Be An Actress:
1. You’re not actually on Mad Men. No Don Draper. No quippy one-liners from Roger Sterling. No drinking in the office. No screwing in the office. No Don Draper. No cute 1960s outfits. No awesome office presentations about Kodak Slide Projectors. No Don Draper. I could go on and on, but for those of you poor unfortunate souls who either don’t get AMC or just don’t watch the show, I won’t waste your time with lots of insider references. But please, do yourself a favor and watch the damn show. Did I mention Jon Hamm is in it?
2. Never staying in one place long enough. You don’t always really get to know people and forge any lasting connections. Oh dear me, how ever will I find a husband or a doubles tennis partner? Oh right. That’s what working the U.S. Open is for. Or being on the Bachelorette.
3. No Facebook/Twitter at work. Companies who want people to be more productive have such websites blocked, which means I can’t stalk the cute guy in the cubicle down the hall or let everyone know I support #SelenaandJustin4eva. This means I have to stalk people the old-fashioned way: Google and a pair of binoculars.
4. Boring office tasks. Without Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer or Jim from the Office to distract me from the mundane tasks of office work, how can I possibly keep from falling asleep? Oh, and thanks JG-L for giving me completely unrealistic expectations about getting a hot makeout session every time I go into the copy room. And also IKEA.
5. Always being “the new kid.” Now I know how foreign exchange students feel (Sorry for making fun of your Hasselhoff obsession, random German kid in high school) and also animals at the zoo (no wonder the Bronx Zoo cobra escaped!).
Clearly, the perks of being a New York City temp worker outweigh the cons although, being a temp worker means I’m still not actually doing what I came to NYC to do…land a husband.
As if! I’m only 23, and this is New York, not Kentucky! (No offense, Kentuckians, just trying to make a veiled Clueless reference.)
One day, I will no longer be the resident Xerox-girl, but until I land my big break, I’ll just drown my boredom in free coffee and thoughts of Don Draper.