Have You Failed By Taking A Short-Term Anything Job?

Suppose you’re one of those people – and there’s a lot of them out there these days – who have some education beyond High School. You’ve planned all along on pursuing a job that makes use of that education. However, with a widening gap of unemployment on your résumé matching your growing frustration at not working, you’ve found yourself finding the idea of just taking a job – any job – more and more appealing; something you thought you never would. There’s this nagging notion that you’ve failed though that keeps you from actually applying for work outside your field of education. So have you?

The short answer is no, you haven’t. Exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Do that a few times and read on.

There’s a lot of common sense involved in doing exactly what you’ve contemplated and like I pointed out in the beginning, you’re one of many who are well-educated and unemployed. It is not only understandable that you’d be looking at broadening your job search at some point – perhaps where you are at the moment – it’s also a very good idea.

So how come? I mean, Employment Coaches and Counsellors often say you should stick to your career plan and never give up on what you really want. Doing anything else is just settling isn’t it? What happened to finding your passion and not letting any setbacks get in your way of going after what’s going to make you truly happy? Flipping burgers, selling clothes, walking school kids across busy intersections: these aren’t the kind of jobs you thought you’d give more than a passing glance at. Could you ever imagine you’d actually be seriously thinking of going after one of these jobs at this point having finished College or University?

Hang on and settle down. We’re not talking forever here. No one is suggesting that you start your first day down at the fast food outlet and pump your first shouting, “Yes! I’ve arrived!”

The jobs we’re discussing here have been in the past called survival jobs. More and more they are also called transition jobs; work that bridges the gap of time and space between the present and a job in the future. These are typically short-term positions outside your field of training and education.

When you find yourself browsing these ads more and more and seriously thinking about actually applying, may I suggest you change your line of perception. Instead of thinking that you’ve failed; that your post-secondary education was a waste of both time and money, consider the positives of these transition jobs.

First and foremost, the income from a job – any entry-level job – will stem some financial bleeding. Admittedly while likely minimum wage, money is money and some is better than none. Perhaps more important than money however is the inclusion factor. Right now you’re outside the workforce; remember feeling that everyone has a job but you? That so many people you see from your window seem to have somewhere to go, something to do, while you sit and grow despondent, frustrated and perhaps depressed? Uh huh. Yep, getting up, showered, dressed and out the door with a purpose is always good. That routine you’ve been missing is more important than you might have thought.

Now if you’ve looked at that School Crossing Guard advertised on some Municipality’s website and scoffed at it, think again. First of all those hours; before school, at noon and late afternoon leave you two chunks of time – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – to continue your targeted job search. Of even more significance perhaps is that once you land a Crossing Guard job, even though you’re working outside, you’ve at the same time become an internal employee. Had you considered that? Yes, you’re now able to see and apply for the internal jobs with that Municipality; jobs that up until now you had no access to. Full-time jobs that pay much better and perhaps come with benefits too.

That Crossing Guard job might be one you have to take for 3 or 6 months before you’re eligible to apply for anther internal job. Okay so be it. Do the job at present and do it with a positive attitude. You’ve got this job so you might as well enjoy it and keep telling yourself you’re in transition from this to your next job – the one you really want.

Remember you don’t have to add a short-term job on your résumé, but consider doing so because it does bridge a gap. In your cover letter or at an interview you can certainly state with confidence that you took the short-term job where you are working to pay the bills but you’re highly motivated to seek work in your field as this is where your passion and strong interest are.

A failure? Far from it. You’re wise enough not to let pride get in the way and perhaps it even demonstrates your belief that no job, and certainly not the people doing them, should be looked down on. Perhaps it’s helped you learn humility and an appreciation for the hard work involved which you’d previously overlooked. Perhaps too you’re actually better for the experience and will be all the more grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of your choice doing what you love.

Suddenly, you might be more attractive to your employer of choice.


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.