Short-Term Transition / Survival Jobs

When you’re out of work and struggling to get interviews for your dream job; the position with the company you ideally want, there comes a time when you may broaden the narrow scope of what you are looking for to include jobs you wouldn’t have considered prior. The real dilemma in a job search is determining both when to broaden the search and just how wide the search will be extended.

There is no set formula, and the advice any one person will receive varies greatly because people are at different stages of their job search. It could be for example that an unemployed fellow is looking for work as a Marketing Specialist in the Film Industry. He’s been at it for 10 months with little to show for it; perhaps a single interview. With bills to pay, frustration mounting, and self-worth eroding, he considers looking at other opportunities. One option is to consider marketing positions in other industries where his skills are transferable while keeping one eye fixed on postings in the industry he really wants to work in.

However perhaps as another option he broadens the scope extremely wide and starts applying to jobs in the electronic retail sector. While some people broaden their scope of what is acceptable just a little, others search wide open for employment in areas they wouldn’t have previously considered.

What is ironic even to me is that the advice we might give; (the advice I myself would give) would be varied were I to meet three or four people similar to this hypothetical person. I may as an Employment Counsellor suggest one person focus on jobs that utilize the education and experience they’ve worked so hard up to now to obtain. With another, I might endorse their decision to maximize their job search outside of their field of expertise, extolling the virtues of obtaining work – any work – to build back up their bank account, stave off financial ruin and build on some crumbling self-esteem. I can honestly say I wouldn’t have one blanket solution for everyone in this situation.

This is where reading someone; taking the time to listen to them, getting to understand their level of tolerance for unemployment and the strength of their self-worth is so critical to giving someone the proper advice when being asked to do so. What is good advice for one person may indeed be poor advice for another.

Some reference jobs that fall outside a persons stated area of preference as survival or transition jobs. These are jobs rather than careers, usually short-term in nature that a person takes on while still focusing on a long-term career position. Now you might ask yourself if taking such a job isn’t a distraction to what a person should really be focused on; pursuing the job they were trained and educated to do. Aren’t they throwing away their education, giving up on their dream too easily?

Well, a survival or transition job has its benefits. For starters there is the obvious benefit of income. There is also something to be said for the benefit to a person’s psyche; when you’ve heard nothing at all in response to job applications or polite rejections again and again, it is nice to hear a, ‘yes’. This can be validation that you are a person of worth; “somebody sees value in me and wants me!” Further, if   you had one of these jobs and you did quit for a position in your field down the road, quitting outside your ideal industry would have no residual impact. In other words, quitting a job with an electronic retail outlet wouldn’t even get back to folks in the film industry, let alone mar your reputation there.

One big positive about working in these transition jobs is the way one can address it in a job interview. Imagine you’re in an interview for a positon you really want and you’re asked what you’re doing at present. You can state honestly that you’re working to pay the bills in a job outside your education and experience, but have consistently pursued your passion (the job you are now interviewing for) and this is the reason you are seated before the interviewer today. Your current position is understood to pay rent and survive, but you’re obviously still working hard at breaking into your field of training and passion. With so many people unemployed for various reasons, these transition or survival jobs are more commonplace and understood as necessary.

People with jobs are more attractive because of the good habits they keep up; the routines, the interpersonal skills they keep practiced, and for the poor habits they aren’t embracing. If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, you may find employers question your work ethic and wonder if there aren’t other issues that explain your long-term unemployed status. (“If other people aren’t hiring you, maybe I shouldn’t either – just to be safe?”)

For everyone, there is a unique time to broaden the job search when your ideal position isn’t forthcoming. The key is to know what’s right for you personally. How long will you give yourself pursuing your dream job until you consider alternatives? This isn’t selling short or selling out altogether. Transition jobs are exactly that; a transition between unemployment and your career of choice. If you opt for a transition job, remind yourself this is but a temporary measure, not your final destination.


One thought on “Short-Term Transition / Survival Jobs

  1. An excellent article Kelly ! There is some real good advice to be had here! I can relate to the subject matter precisely, and take it a step further. For some people transition jobs are even harder to get, unless you have “a foot in the door”. While not openly admitted I do believe there is a lot of age discrimination going on out there. It is a slippery sliding slope as well when you really do have physical limitations on what you can do. That being said – it still doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer the working world. I think there should be more job placements happening to help someone get on their feet. Perhaps the government should give incentives more to employers.


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