‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: Does a temporary job hurt your career? I am currently unemployed and need to pay the bills until I find a permanent job. My concern is I will be committing career suicide if I take something temporary. I know a few individuals who hold doctorates in engineering who used to work for large Fortune 200 companies and who were laid off and took jobs like driving a bus or stocking shelves. They think they have been unable to get a job in their professions because of these temporary jobs. — Pat
J.T.: Let’s start by facing up to the financial realities: A good rule of thumb is that for every $10,000 you want in salary, it will take a month of searching. So, if you’re looking to make $80,000, plan on an eight-month search. However, given this economy, I’m adding two additional months to the old rule of thumb, so it’s 10 months for the $80,000 example. Most people don’t have the kind of savings required to keep themselves afloat that long. My suggestion to professionals in your situation is to always try to find freelance work in your field, earning some income by leveraging the skills you want to bring to your next full-time job.
Dale: First, Pat, I’d call what you’re describing a stopgap job, as opposed to a temporary one; after all, a temporary job could be in your field. As for your question, it isn’t that there’s anything wrong with driving a bus or stocking shelves; what’s wrong is being seen as someone who couldn’t find any contract or consulting work that would make use of your high-level education and experience. Taking an unrelated job means you aren’t just out of work, but out of the field, falling behind — and that’s what makes re-entry more difficult. So, take a lesser job if you have to, but do some consulting work, too, even if that “consulting” consists of helping a nonprofit or advising your cousin’s small business. Find a way to stay in the field, even if you’re also stocking shelves.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career management blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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