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Find A Job, Then A Career

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Hard Work Should Be LaudedAll this nice fuzzy “wait for the right opportunity,” or “you want a career, not just another job” sounds good until your feet are held to the fire. I think a lot of career advice tries to be overly rosy and positive, without a keen eye towards reality. The reality is that when you’re unemployed, your are constantly running into failure on a daily basis. You send out resumes that seem to disappear into the ether, you call companies that tell you they will call you back if there is an opportunity, and you talk to friends who, as well intentioned as they are, say they will try to help but usually aren’t in a position to do so. It sucks. While there are steps you can take to boost your confidence, the grim reality is that it sucks.

This article is part of Bargaineering Career Week 2009, a week-long series focused on your career – how to find a job, how to tailor your resume, how to find the job opportunities and how to nail the interview. This article is the second article of day one – career planning.

So when career advice says that you shouldn’t find the first job that comes your way and that you should use your unemployment to find the right career, it makes sense up to a point. If you’ve been out of work long enough to exhaust your savings and your unemployment benefits are running out, then you need to get a job.

How does a job differ from a career? A job is something you do just for the paycheck. You might enjoy the work but it’s not something you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s not something that gets you out of bed, excited and invigorated, every day. A career is a job that does. It’s a job that might be something you want to do in thirty years. Or it’s a stepping stone to the next level. It’s a job that opens up doors for your future.

However, when times are tight, we need to worry more about the near term future than the long term future. When you’re struggling to pay the bills tomorrow, it doesn’t matter whether taking the first job limits your future because you’re simply worrying about getting there.

There are some people who say that they will never take a minimum wage job. They see it as “below” their ability (if you don’t believe me, read some of the comments on this post of whether you should take a low paying job). Unfortunately, when you’re in survival mode, you take any job that puts food on your table.

Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think that taking a job that pays the bills over a job that is more in line with your career is a mistake? Even in tough times?

(Photo: jdeepaniii)

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18 Responses to “Find A Job, Then A Career”

  1. Chris says:

    Ever heard someone say that they can’t afford their dream job? That’s me. What kind of example do we set as parents when we go to work at jobs we hate and try to teach our kids to follow their dreams, when we don’t follow our own.

    • Jim says:

      Parents make sacrifices for their children and I think children have to respect that. You may not follow your dream, but that’s because you want your kids to follow theirs.

  2. hoht says:

    My parents taught me that putting food on the table was priority because they were refugees at one point and food was always scarce. But as an undergrad, I’m following this saying now “Rather go to bed without dinner than rise in debt”.

  3. kenyantykoon says:

    i chose the career that i am in because i enjoy it immensely and also the monetary reward from doing it very well is sky high. not to mention the fulfillment. It feels good to have something to wake up to that makes you anticipate going to it instead of having to grudgingly wake up in the morning and work a job you hate just because of the monthly paycheck. I personally think that it requires some form of courage to find a career that suites you particularly if it not in line with your current status

  4. redivelli says:

    In my mind I have “job” defined differently. Yes, it does bring a paycheck, but also so much more. Every time that I find I am interested in a certain field I pick up a part time job doing similar work. This lets me see how interested I am in making it my career. Thus, for me, job just means a place to learn. There will always be opportunities to expand in an area of interest.

    To me there are also enjoyable parts of any work to be done, so I have never been miserable in a place of work.

    This all comes with a grain of salt, as I am a college student. I have only held 6 different positions in my life.

    • Jim says:

      You’re right, it’s like a trial period to see if you’d like it… great point Redivelli.

      Six is a lot for a college student, at least now you know a couple things you probably don’t like. :)

      • redivelli says:

        I’ve actually made it through all six deciding they weren’t for me. In retrospect I realize that the friends in each of those positions opened up doors elsewhere. The network you can build is worth more than the paycheck (which is how I am trying to get in to Grad School!)

  5. eric says:

    I think this is a great point. I have many peers who constantly lament about their expenses using the excuse that they’re still searching for that perfect career. It seems logical to me to get a job (any job) and earn something while looking for that career transition.

  6. Carla says:

    I agree with you, but when I was unemployed in the past, it was difficult to find ANYTHING; especially in a down economy. Anything to me meant retail, restaurant jobs, cleaning, etc. All those jobs were taken by people with experience in those area who were planning on sticking around (not ditching as soon as the “right opportunity” came around).

    I though it would be easy to find ANY job when time were hard – boy was I wrong!

  7. Jim, I think you’re giving solid advice here. Focusing on a career when there’s no money coming in can dig you into both an emotional and monetary hole, eventually forcing you to ditch your career ambitions in favor of a job doing anything to bring in some money.

    It’s also easier to strive for a career when from the firm foundation of having an income/job. It’s hard to find a career when you’re in need of money, so if you at least have some coming in, you have a launching pad to dream and work toward something better.

  8. Ken says:

    I think finding any job to pay the bills is a must. I think it would be hard for someone to think clearly about a career path if they are consumed with paying the elctric bill. You just have to do what’s necessary for a season in your life.

  9. Let’s not kid ourselves though, after 5 years doing your “job”, i think we can call it a “career” now!

    This past February, when the Earth was crumbling, I was ready to try and be the first in line to apply for my old job at McDonald’s! I can make the meanest Egg McMuffin you’ve ever seen!

  10. BrianC says:

    I haven’t had anything like what I’d consider a career. People always say to me, “Do what you love!” and I’m like, OK, Who’s going to pay my health insurance? or my rent? I don’t dread my job, but it doesn’t give me much satisfaction, either.

  11. pcallaghan says:

    QUOTE “There are some people who say that they will never take a minimum wage job. They see it as “below” their ability (if you don’t believe me, read some of the comments on this post of whether you should take a low paying job). Unfortunately, when you’re in survival mode, you take any job that puts food on your table.

    Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you think that taking a job that pays the bills over a job that is more in line with your career is a mistake? Even in tough times?”

    The people who see this as below their ability and refuse to take it no matter what their situation is a pretty sad story. They would rather suffer through the small sum they get from unemployment (if they haven’t already used it up) than work and be at least comfortable. Having such a long period of time unemployed, not doing anything looks absolutely AWFUL when you go in to get a new job. What manager/company will hire someone who, when asked what they’ve been up to since they were involved in a layoff, I’ve just been sitting around the house???? I was laid off, though my networking skills had a contract in my hand 3 days after, I still had 3 months to kill. I went out and did manual labor with a concrete/masonry contractor. It was not the prettiest job nor the most ideal, but it certainly helped me out. Instead of coming out of unemployment in debt, I actually decreased my debt (and got into pretty good shape while I was at it). I have a degree in Computer Engineering, and am beginning to pursue my masters in software engineering as well as information technologies. I’m not too good to do that sort of work. It can be quite fun. I listened to some lady on the radio the other day just going off on her husband because he suggested she take a job at his company as temporary work so that they could continue to eat, not use their credit cards and not lose their house. They were at risk of foreclosure yet she refused and basically told him to go $%&$ himself because she had a college degree. What is wrong with people? Nobody is too good for ANY job, I don’t care what degree you have.

  12. Reed says:

    I totally agree with this. The difference between settling with unemployment and getting a low wage job is the entitlement mentality. Living in an entitlement mentality can be very dangerous and eliminate encentive to want or do more with our lives. The low wage job may suck very bad at first, but meeting new people and filling time in a day earning income are also important. I would rather earn new income than accept a hand out unless absolutley necessary. Necessary as in my house was taken by Katrina or something. Great question thank you.

  13. Neil says:

    Jobs can build careers. After a period of intentional unemployment (I spent some months traveling) I came to my current employer about three years ago as a temp with basically no experience, and education amounting to “college dropout.” A month later I was hired full-time for an incredibly dull job and within a year I had my tuition paid for to go to evening classes. Today I got offered a job with the finance team, and my career is on its way.

    All from what was originally intended to be a 2-week temp assignment.

  14. zapeta says:

    I think this is great advice. Just because you’re working doesn’t mean you can’t keep looking for another job. Plus, you may find that a job you thought you would dislike might be something that you really do enjoy.

  15. fishboyridesagain says:

    There are other things to consider besides pay. I’m not ignoring the fact that you need money to pay for the things you need to live, but there are times when you are making an investment in your future.

    I’m a Biologist, and I’ve seen people pass up lower pay scale possitions for the job that pays more now. There are times when the mentoring you receive, the contacts, and on-the-job training will be worth more than the pay you receive this month.


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