Defibrillator Jobs -- Part II
By Peter Weddle
You can waste a lot of time looking for your dream job in today’s rigor mortis job market. You can be just as frustrated if you settle for a stop gap job—one that holds you in place even as your income goes down. What’s the alternative? Get yourself a “defibrillator job”—one that will provide financial survival in the near term and the space to shock your career into the momentum you need for success in the mid-to-longer term.
How do you find a defibrillator job? And how do you use that job to stimulate your career? There’s only one way: learn and practice the principles of Career Fitness. Acquire the skills of a career athlete and put them to work for you in the one-third or more of your life you’re going to spend at work.
Finding a defibrillator job is a three step process:
Step 1: Have a frank talk with yourself about what you’re doing. Taking a defibrillator job is not a step backward, unless you look at it that way. There’s nobility in work, no matter what the occupation or task. That said, a defibrillator job search begins by focusing on the least lousy of your options and, if that proves untenable, then takes you through a series of other alternatives that are less beneficial than that, at least in terms of the income and workplace experience they provide.
So, why bother? Because reinstating yourself in the workforce provides you with at least four powerful benefits:
- It gets an income stream flowing again so you can meet at least some and maybe even all of your obligations without tapping into savings or taking other draconian financial measures;
- It demonstrates character traits—tenacity, a sense of personal responsibility and courage—that will impress any employer and stand you in good stead in today’s and tomorrow’s job market;
- It accords you the stature of “an employed person” which, rightly or wrongly, will enhance your perceived value to employers and recruiters down the road; and
- It provides you the time you need to shock your career back into a success sustaining momentum by learning and then implementing the principles and practices of Career Fitness.
As a career athlete, then, you’re taking a defibrillator job not as a stop gap measure but as a platform for stepping up and out in your career. It is not a last ditch attempt to hang on by your fingernails, but a proactive strategy for preserving and enhancing your dignity and self respect.
Step 2: Have a frank talk with your family about what you’re doing. While today’s economy has been widely covered in the news, it’s entirely possible that your spouse or partner, your kids or family may not fully understand the impact of the situation on your career. Now’s the time to fill them in, not to frighten or panic them, but rather to make sure they understand the challenge you face in finding a new job—any job—in the current environment.
Then, you have to educate them on the value of your taking a defibrillator job. Just as you did for yourself in Step 1, you must convince them that it’s not a step backward, but rather a chance for you to prepare for a significant leap forward when the economy improves. That’s admittedly often a difficult and unpleasant conversation to have, but it’s essential to your success. Why? Because your spouse or partner, your kids or family will also have to sacrifice (by adjusting their expectations and even their standard of living) in the near term. You need their support to achieve your goal as a career athlete so they deserve an explanation for their sacrifice and a sense of the outcome they can expect from it.
Step 3: Work your way through alternative employment options until you land the best defibrillator job you can find. Looking for such a job does not mean you should take the first minimum wage position that comes along. While it’s true that a defibrillator job provides survival income, that’s only half of the “benefit” it should offer. To be a true career-saving opportunity, a defibrillator job must also give you the time to strengthen your occupational prowess and momentum. Its workday schedule and demands must enable you to practice Career Fitness regularly and without interruption.
What are the options you should consider for a defibrillator job? They compose a hierarchy of different job search paths:
- Path 1: The Least Lousy Option—a part time position in your current career field and at the same level of seniority as your previous full time job. These kinds of positions enable you to keep your skill set fresh and demonstrate the caliber of contribution you can make on-the-job. That demonstration is, in essence, an extended job interview, which can serve you well as the economy improves and your employer looks to staff up for the recovery. In fact, the American Staffing Association reports that about a third of those who are hired in part time jobs are eventually employed in a full time role by their employer.
- Path 2: A position in your current career field, but at a lower level of seniority than your previous job. Such a position draws on less of your experience and demands fewer of your skills than the job you last held. It’s especially tough to land such a job and then hang onto it because you must convince the employer and your prospective boss that you won’t bolt as soon as the economy improves and, for those of a certain age, you have to convince yourself that you can work productively for someone who is likely to be younger and even less capable than you.
- Path 3: A position in a different but related career field, so it draws on at least some of the skills and experience you acquired in your own field. For example, if you were in sales, you might take a position in customer service. The challenge, of course, is to convince an employer that you know enough to ramp up to full productivity quickly and that you bring other qualities—maturity, insight, teamwork—that will pay dividends despite your lack of hands-on experience in their particular field.
- Path 4: A position in a different and totally unrelated field, but one which offers a genuine opportunity to practice Career Fitness and the likelihood of sustained employment. These positions often pay significantly less than the first three options—in many cases, they are pegged at the minimum wage—but they do provide an income and sometimes also offer healthcare and other benefits. The most visible of these kinds of jobs and, therefore, the most competitive (at least in this economy), are those in the hospitality, light industrial, transport and delivery, retail, and building maintenance industries.
How do you implement this strategy? I call the process “parallel pathing.” In effect, you maintain your search for a full time position in your current career field and at your current level of seniority, but at the same time you conduct a parallel search that works through each of the paths in the hierarchy. Spend two-to-three weeks on Path 1, then move on to Path 2. Spend two-to-three weeks on Path 2, and then move on to the third path and so on. Obviously, the goal is to return to gainful employment as quickly as possible, but in the right job—one that will enable you to turn being downsized into a personal upgrade. You don’t give up on your primary job search, but you are also realistic about what’s possible in today’s job market and adjust accordingly.
Admittedly, taking a defibrillator job requires a healthy dose of both humility and courage. But give yourself credit—you’re responding to the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and you’re doing so by holding down not one but two jobs. However, these are not your traditional first and second jobs. Quite the contrary. They are two first jobs: one where you meet your employer’s performance expectations and deliver on the paycheck they’re providing, and another where you invest in yourself and your career—where you show the fortitude and self respect required to voluntarily shock your career back into the momentum required for success.
I’ll explore how you use Career Fitness to produce that shock in my next column.
Thanks for reading,
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