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.
Note: This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated in April of 2019.
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 nonprofits pro-bono. The projects are intended to last only 4-6 weeks and only require a 10 hour per week commitment.
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, if 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.
- Take a gig position with Uber, Lyft, Task Rabbit, Rover,…
Notice that all of these positions are short term, let you engage with people and give you the flexibility to keep up your job search or look for your next career pivot.
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.
Volunteer with programs like Austin Leap To Success. LTS is the signature program of Launch Pad Job Club where projects are done for local non-profits. Maybe you can dust off an old skill, polish up a current skill or learn something new.
(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.
Will It Improve My Mental Outlook
There are several members of the Career Pivot Membership Community who have taken survival jobs for their own mental health. Let me give you some examples:
- Tom went to work 4 days a week at Home Depot. He is back interacting with people that energize him. It forces him to get up at the same time each day and he has developed the discipline to wall off time, when he is not working, to focus on his freelance business.
- Larry took a job as a bank teller. It was at a community bank where operations were still pretty manual. When he went through teller training it forced him to use skills he had not used in years. He only did this for 4 months, but it gave him confidence that he could still learn and stretch himself.
- Sherry drove for Lyft. She loves to drive and interact with people. Driving for Lyft gave her the opportunity to do both. The kicker is Sherry picked 2 consulting clients from passengers. Was this serendipity? Yes. However, Sherry’s brain and attitude were re-engaged and making her more employable.
All of these examples allowed them the flexibility to keep focusing on their next career steps and they only took survival jobs for a few months. What it did was re-engage their minds and bodies that can sometimes only happen when you are working.
Think Carefully Before Taking a Survival Job
There are times when taking a survival job is absolutely necessary, but consider the following:
- 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 of taking the position?
- Will your mind, body, and spirit improve from going back to work, even for a short period of time?
Have you taken a survival job? What were the positives and negatives?
Please comment below.Marc Miller