Should She Take a Survival Job?


Kristy writes:
What is your advice/opinion on taking a “survival” job? – one that will help pay bills but doesn’t further your career or personal goals.


The Career Doctor responds:
consider_staying_active_in_your_-_CanvaObviously if you are on the brink of losing your car house or apartment or not being able to pay your bills then the decision is really already made for you – take the survival job while still searching for one in your career field. Just remember to carve out enough time in your day to continue your job search in earnest. How will employers view your survival job? In one of two ways with the majority seeing it as a positive.

Employers don’t like to see employment gaps on resumes. By taking a survival job you maintain employment. And don’t immediately assume that a survival job can’t add to your base of skills needed for your career. For example if you are a marketer by trade but you are forced to take a cashier shift at the 7-11 to pay the bills there are many invaluable customer relations vendor management and sales skills you can cultivate.

Other employers however will question your choice. Taking a survival job raises the questions of whether you are suffering from career burnout and other issues to why you were not able to find employment in your field. To alleviate some of these concerns consider staying active in your professional organization while employed in your survival job and consider doing some volunteer work (in your area of expertise) for a local non-profit organization. You might also consider accepting some freelancing opportunities and investigating some career-enhancement courses at a local college (or via distance learning).

In the end as with much of job-hunting it really comes down to how well you can sell the job in your cover letter on your resume and in the job interview. If you master positioning this experience as one that enhances (or at least does not take away from) your career you should be able to find another job in your field. See my article The Pros and Cons of Taking a Survival Job. What Should You Do?


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