Should I Take a Survival Job?

Survival Job

Survival_JobAre you considering taking a survival job? Have you been out of work for over six months? Have your unemployment benefits run out?

Are you running out of money to pay the mortgage, or are you going to raid your 401(k) for living expenses?

Many are driven to this decision by monetary issues and feel like they are stepping off into desperation.

I define a survival job as any position that you plan on taking temporarily. This might be taking a retail position at Home Depot or substitute teaching with the local school district or even working for a family member in an administrative role.

Here are the questions I want you to ask yourself before you take a survival job.

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Will I Be Able to Continue My Job Search?

I have been on the board of directors of Launch Pad Job Club, the largest and oldest job organization in Central Texas, since 2006. Early in my tenure on the board, I ran a survey of our current and past members. What I found was that the vast majority of those who took a survival job discontinued their job search.

Be honest with yourself!

Look at the number of hours you will be working and when. If you take a 40 hour a week position, will you have the time and energy to continue your job search?

I have seen a lot of job club members take retail positions where they are on their feet all day on concrete floors and come home exhausted.

Will the hours you work conflict with your ability to network and interview for a new position?

Launch Pad Job Club now has a signature program called Leap to Success where club members work on real projects for area non-profits pro-bono. The projects are intended to last only 4-6 weeks and only require a 10 hour per week commitment.

(More: Inertia and Persistence as it Relates to Your Career)

Will I Have the Opportunity to Meet Prospective Employers?

Here are some examples where a survival job might allow you to make some money and network your way to your next position:

  • Work temporarily for local conventions in registration and other administrative functions.
  • Take a seasonal position at a company where you want to work. Whole Foods Market, which is headquartered in Austin, gives priority to candidates who have worked there. For example, f you want an IT position you can work as a cashier during the holiday season, impress the manager, and you will likely be given priority in interviewing for IT positions.
  • Seasonal government positions – This could be a census taker or working local elections. You never know who you might meet.

Will this Position Help Me Acquire a Skill?

I have had multiple clients take survival jobs through Goodwill Staffing of Central Texas. In some cases, they have been given access to software that they could not afford on their own. In a few free moments during the day, they have been able to train themselves on the software. They can only do this on their breaks and lunch time, but it is possible.

(More: Negotiating for What You Want!)

Would I be Embarrassed to Put this on My Resume?

When taking a survival job, you need to consider whether you will put this on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile.

Obviously, if you went to work for an adult oriented business, you will likely not want to put this on your resume. If you do not, you will need to explain the gap in your resume. This also could include working for religious or political organizations. In today’s politically correct climate, you will want to clearly weigh your options.

Think carefully before taking a survival job.

  • You have to be honest with yourself about your own abilities to make sure you can continue your job search.
  • What, if any, benefits other than the income do you get from taking this position?
  • What are the liabilities to taking the position?

Marc Miller Career Design Specialist


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  1. I agree that taking a survival job is not very good option but only if you intend on on trying to really get back in the work force and continue a career. However, there are those of us whom are over 62 that just want something to stave off using their 401(k) or IRA or stat I starting their social security benefits. But we even want a decent job and by that I’m talking about no contact center job where some young wannabe is trying to make a name and thinks the way to do it is forgetting their manners.

    • George,
      The big thing in taking a survival job is do it with your eyes wide open.

      I talked with a gentleman yesterday who had two choices:
      – A contract for 6 months at $18/hour with lots of flexibility
      – A position that would be a grind 8 hours a day but decent pay

      I suggested he take the first option as long as the money was good enough to makes end meet for 6 months. That way he can continue his job search.

  2. Marc,
    You make some excellent points in this article. I also think that working provides a routine that helps make us mindful of our time. Otherwise, it is easy to let hours, days, and weeks go by without an anchor.
    Thanks for sharing!

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