A retirement plan? You're joking, right? I know "retro" is "in," but repeat after me: "It isn't 1955 any more."
My experience is undoubtedly vast, but it was all in academia and did not at all translate to what long-term employers wanted (or thought they wanted). As for smoothing over the bumps, this time last year I was living in a 20 by 20 foot shack in the woods without a refrigerator.
But that was before I started temping. Now, I usually don't go more than a week or two between assignments, and those off times are nice vacations for me. Plus, I have a lot of money to enjoy myself. I'm making 2.5 times as much as I made in academia. At that rate, I can work half a year and have as good a lifestyle. The only low-pass filterthat works is a savings account.
As far as the work being dirty, you're right about that. My first temp assignment was for three weeks, and in that time I had to save the collective tuchus of a fledgeling B2B company. They're still around, in large part thanks to me. I don't see why it should be avoided, though. People will pay an awful lot of money for someone who can do dirty work.
You know how in some detective movies there's a guy who wears sunglasses and leather gloves who is called in at the middle to "fix" something? There is a lot of advantage to being That Guy. Of course, you have to look good in leather.
Also, if you show a willingness to do the dirty work, very often you might get hired on more regularly, if that's what you want.
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