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:
Obviously 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. And you can try and
bury the survival job on your resume by experimenting with switching from a chronological
format to a chrono-functional format. A chrono-functional resume focuses on key skills clusters.
Read more about
functional resumes
. (Keep your chronological version in case the chrono-functional doesn’t work for you as many employers don’t like them.)
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 free-lancing
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?