In today’s market, it’s not uncommon to find that people need to take a position well beneath their usual and customary occupation in order to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s really not: the key is to get the job without destroying your future career, nor burning your new employer.
If you’ve spent years in a cube and now need to work on a loading dock to make ends meet, that’s ok. Ideal? Probably not. Does it put food on the table? Yes. So, how do you go about doing this?
Start with your current resume and determine what skills are appropriate for the new, lower level position. No reputable resume writer, career coach, career counselor, etc. will ever tell you to lie or to fabricate anything on your resume. The same holds true here. However, you can be accurate without being precise. Many of the foundational skills used in your higher level roles, without the higher level skills, will still be appropriate to list. For example, if you used to work as a project manager coordinating events, the same skills could be used to manage a loading dock – effective people management, a vision for the big picture, visualizing the end result, efficiently move pieces of the puzzle from point a to be, etc. You might downplay or even eliminate the higher level types of projects you worked on, while focusing solely on the easily recognized and transferable skills. If you have worked as a marketing manager and now you just need to survive and you are willing and able to work as a marketing assistant, rather than highlight your creative talents, focus on what’s most important in the assistant role: good administrative skills, good organizational skills, a pleasant demeanor, the ability to take direction (rather than give it), etc.
In some cases, you may find that temporary agencies can be very valuable in finding a survival job – no one expects the job to go on forever, which works nicely for both parties, and the temp agency is able to provide a highly skilled person for often a fraction of the cost to the employer.
The trick is convince the prospective employer that you aren’t going to bolt at the first sign of a better opportunity. This has to be a two way street, and all parties have to be fair to one another. Again, don’t lie. Determine what you can say that’s true while being true to yourself and fair to the employer. You never know – that “survival” job may turn into a great opportunity once the employer sees all of your skills and talents.
Don’t expect that it will be any easier to land a “survival” job: just like you, many others are also following the same approach, and so the competition is much stronger, just like in your idea target market. Employers have the pick of the cream of the crop, so to speak. These types of interviews require just as much preparation, and in many cases more preparation, than a position in your target market.
Most importantly, pride can’t stop you. If you have a family to feed and a roof to maintain, you do what you have to do. I’ve been there. Many people I know have been there. There’s no shame in providing for your family by doing what you have to do. Just keep your eye on the ultimate target and quietly continue to pursue that, keep current with developments in your chosen field so that your skills do not deteriorate, and keep up your network. Find ways to do projects in your field so that you can demonstrate currency.
Last week, I heard from a recruiter who attended a job fair here in the Los Angeles area: her impression of the fair was that many, many employers are again hiring and that the Great Recession may be slowly coming to an end. She also noticed a huge number of highly qualified candidates vying for a still limited number of jobs (but more than in the recent past). The signs are pointing up. Hang in there.
Michael Trust, MPA, SPHR-CA, is a Certified Career Coach and a Certified Executive Career Coach, who helps people find their passion and fulfill their dreams as they relate to careers through his organization, Trustworthy Coaching®, www.TrustworthyCoaching.com. Mr. Trust’s Coaching, Business, and Human Resources experience spans twenty years, and he has had major roles in staffing in all of his Human Resource positions. In addition, he has coached individuals at all career levels relative to their career paths, job search strategies, business strategies, and related areas. Mr. Trust is also a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF).
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