Landing a Survival Job
If you’re a highly qualified professional who has been unemployed for a while, you may eventually have to find a “Plan B” job to pay your bills until the job market improves and you can return to your preferred type of work.
There’s no shame in that, but landing a temporary survival job can be harder than you think -- there may be dozens of applicants for a retail job at your local mall, for example.
Career experts offer these eight dos and don’ts for finding and getting hired for a survival job.
1. Do Choose Your Survival Job Wisely
“A survival job should be something you enjoy,” says Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert who is CEO of Santa Monica, California-based Lynn Taylor Consulting and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. For example, if you’re a social animal with a passion for music, try getting a gig as a bartender in your favorite karaoke bar. “Your likelihood of landing even a survival job is greater if you demonstrate genuine enthusiasm, so don’t waste anyone’s time with a job you dislike from the start,” she says.
2. Don’t Give Up on Finding the Job You Really Want
Before turning to bartending, look for a survival job in your field -- even if it means taking a major step down. Doing so will provide consistency and focus in your career and put you in the right place should opportunities arise within that company, Taylor says. If you must take a survival job outside your field, aim for evening or weekend hours so you can use your days to search and interview for your desired professional position, she says.
3. Do Tone Down Your Resume
“Long, verbose resumes shout ‘overqualified,’” Taylor says. So tighten your resume and/or decrease your scribblings on application forms for survival jobs. While you shouldn’t lie outright about your work experience, “it’s OK to de-emphasize certain qualifications by taking high-level job titles, graduate degrees or other irrelevant work experience off your resume,” says Los Angeles-based career coach David Couper, author of Outsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career Even When You Don’t Fit In. Adds Garrett Miller, a New Jersey-based workplace productivity coach, trainer and author of Hire on a WHIM: The Four Qualities that Make for Great Employees: “Drop the corporate speak and power phrases, and instead highlight your strengths in relating to people and your work ethic.”
4. Do Stay Upbeat
A positive attitude is everything when searching for a survival job. Let’s say you were laid off from a high-level IT position and are interviewing for a job at a coffee shop. Your interviewers will sense your disdain if you can’t find any upside to making and serving fancy drinks to customers. “You have to look at it as an opportunity to grow and stretch,” Miller says. “It’s almost like a miniversion of ‘Undercover Boss.’ You’ll be gaining perspective, empathy and insight into experiences you had once not even considered.”
5. Don’t Come Across As a Know-It-All
Be confident during an interview, not cocky. You may be older and more educated than your interviewer, but that doesn’t mean you’d make a better cup of coffee. Bragging about your accomplishments won’t resonate with your interviewer, Miller notes, but what will impress are phrases such as: “I’m very teachable,” “I may not have chosen this career change, but I’m excited to learn new talents and skills from you” and “I will be here every day. You can depend on me”
6. Don’t Lie
It’s great to show commitment to your potential survival job, but don’t go overboard. “It will hurt you if you lie and say this is the job of your dreams,” Taylor says. “It’ll come back to haunt you if you’re just looking for a temporary survival job but you lead your potential employer to believe otherwise.”
7. Do Prepare for the Interview
When conducting your job interview preparation, keep in mind the employer’s perspective, Couper says. Your interviewer will be trying to ascertain three things: Can you do the job? Will you fit in with the team? Will you cause any problems? Answering common interview questions of this nature in a satisfactory manner is your “golden ticket,” Couper says. Taylor says you can show your maturity (without bragging) and counteract the notion you’re overqualified with winning scripts such as these: “I’ve always gotten kudos for my people skills” and “I’m good at keeping the peace.”
8. Don't Share Your Sob Story
Don't go on a tirade against your former employer, complain about your debt or reveal too much about your personal woes. "If the desperation shows in your face, you won't come across as genuine" in your desire for the job, Taylor says.