Find yourself at a point in your search at having to accept a stopgap job? Here’s how to find empowerment in your decision to do what’s best for you.
Many job seekers are stuck in a crappy situation right now. Unemployment benefits are running out, the job market is still unstable, and Instagram feeds are full of #stufftobuynow while funds are, well, maybe not quite the same as they were in December, 2019.
During a search you may find yourself at a crossroads of accepting a “stopgap opportunity.” Maybe it’s hustling at a Starbucks or managing a showroom while your true desire is designing the furniture, not greeting those who browse it. Deciding to take the interim job in order to pay your bills to see you through this perilous time can certainly feel helpless, like you’re giving in without much of a choice. Being kind to yourself while taking control of the decision to choose the interlude along your path is important for your mental and physical well-being. Here’s how you can navigate this decision from a position of power despite a situation which can typically make someone feel helpless.
Empower your Decision
Create a Google doc or simply open up your notebook and create three columns:
During your conversations and journey exploring this transitional opportunity, fill each column with your thoughts:
Professional: Does the opportunity allow you to learn new software? What about connections–you will have the chance to make new connections along your hustle?
Personal: Crawling the walls doesn’t always help you structure your day. When the hours blur together, this stopgap job can help carve out specific times and days of focused activity to devote to resuming your search. Does this opportunity provide you with a way to schedule in search time?
Stopgap: What type of relief will this solution provide? This can be a real no-brainer and perhaps the most immediate need for taking on this opportunity. Mortgage, the holidays, car payments…these obligations must be met and sometimes a stopgap is the perfect solution.
You Get to Chose
Referring to these buckets during your decision making process will help you feel in control. You’re CHOOSING this step because one, two, or maybe even all three buckets contain rational thoughts, findings, and discoveries to make a sound decision. Feeling like you’re making a choice versus being forced into something automatically swings the pendulum back to you; oftentimes unplanned career pivots emote feelings of helplessness. Making the list empowers you to make your decision based out of fact and reasoning, not helplessness.
Want some help to get going? Grab a free, 15-Min call during the month of December to jump start your New Year decision making. I’d love to help–and am always happy to be a second set of ears. You’ve got the ability to stand strong in your decision…and do what’s best for YOU.
Our worlds are all upside down now. My home office is now in the middle of my dining room, my desk flanked by two disgruntled home learners with their mom stuck in the middle. Unlike some LinkedIn posters wondering what day it is, I’m very well tuned into to the fact that today is Thursday, April 16, thanks to school’s chirping reminders to log daily attendance. I have home-made schedules taped to my dining room walls to keep us all moving forward, all moving in some semblance of direction. When I step away and look at my make-shift desk/home office/home schooling set up it appears that I have my act together. As my kids transition through their day from math, to writing, to science I sit quietly, trapped in my own career molasses. What I felt I had all together — bustling clients, a hectic schedule — just a few short weeks ago is a tumbleweed of yesterday’s stability, blowing past the window.
Like so many, you may find yourself out there wondering what the hell is next. For some, it’s freelancing or “consulting” either now or in the future. For years as an agency recruiter I would counsel candidates who were in a job transition to “just do some consulting” to fill the gaps. How hard could it be? Offer up your services and get out there! I had no idea what it actually meant to consult until I left my job to go it alone. I quickly navigated freelance recruiting despite stepping into ego landmines and head-pounding software quagmires to learn that my my cavalier advice was very short-sighted.
The Major Blindspot
Landing a client is one hurdle–learning all their systems along with names, titles, and personalties is another. And once you have it all down, the contract ends and you’re off to find the next gig. It seems at times insurmountable but I’m here to tell you that yes, you can figure this out–if you can master the biggest hurdle of all: believing you can do it.
One of the biggest challenges of going it alone is that there isn’t anyone around to tell you that what you’re doing is right. Being part of a team gives you access (whether you appreciate it or not) to a stream of constant feedback. Peers, colleagues, and certainly bosses can be quick reminders when you start veering off track. Going it alone is you, yourself, making decisions based upon your years of experience and expertise.
You need to own and trust your expertise. Trust in your knowledge to guide you through the uncertainties of a market that no one can predict. Remind yourself–either through laptop post-its or meditative mantras that you got yourself to this point and you will continue to get yourself forward.
You have the skills and expertise to handle this–work will open up, assignments will come–trust in your ability to the expert in the room. Because truly if not you, then who?
I’m available to connect and talk shop. Reach out anytime to connect and let me know how your freelancing and consulting is going–I’d love to help!
You make a difference in the world. It’s easy to forget that when self-doubt is around us everyday, challenging us to confidently walk in our path. Self-doubt casts seeds of worry and second-guessing across all of our decisions. Self-doubt in daily life is hard enough but it can be paralysis to a job search. Believing in the power of YOU can silence your interpretations and allow you to be open to the choices that lie ahead of you along your path.
Focus on Positivity
Residing in the snug nest of gainful employment (steady paychecks, benefits, a regular commute) allows the illusion of sure-footedness and confidence as we go about our day. When that security is rattled, whether through free choice or unexpected layoff, our belief in who we are and how we contribute is reshaped. Staying focused on how you impact the world around you and taking note of why YOU are important, not just to a job but to life around you, is critical to staying positive and motivated to what lies next along your path. When your confidence is rattled, surround yourself with the knowledge of who you are outside the safety nest of your job:
Build Lists. Keep a note on your phone, on a whiteboard in your home office, or tucked away in a drawer you open daily reminding yourself of your worth. Who counts on you? Who do you help every day? What brings you joy? Make a list and it doesn’t matter if are two things or a dozen. Writing down the people, pets, community groups, or strangers that you help or impact allows you to see your worth beyond employment.
Frame it Up. A motivating quote, a copy of an image that makes you smile, or a photograph…so many images live digitally on our phones. It’s easy (and inexpensive) to quickly print up a picture and slip it into a frame to visually remind yourself of a moment or sentiment that lifts you outside of your search. Sitting at your desk feeling stuck can feel a little less restrictive when there’s someone you love smiling at you.
Use Time to Self Discover. Unexpected free time during the day can feel daunting. Sitting hunched over your laptop and scrolling the never ending posts on LinkedIn easily eats up hours of your day. Take time to step away from the endless cache of job posts to work on self-improvement by simply listening to a podcast or book you’ve been curious to check out. Self-growth and spiritual building is important to your overall health. Cash in a free Audible you’ve been wanting to check out and fill your brain with information that doesn’t involve job searching.
Get Physical. A break–whether by choice or not–is a great time to focus on the state of your physical health and make a positive change. Healthy outlets don’t have to include expense work-out classes. From cashing in coupons for free yoga classes you stashed in your office from when your 9-5 was keeping you tied up to downloading workouts on YouTube–which are awesome!–there are many inexpensive ways to make a big difference in your health. The strength you build will help you be fully ready–physically and mentally–for your Next Step.
Break Free from the Timeline. When you’ve become accustomed to meeting quarterly goals and managing your time in 15-minute increments it’s uncomfortable to have swaths of unaccounted time or to expect that your Next Step will arrive exactly on the month and day you expected. Disbanding from your presumed plan will allow you the freedom to have faith and focus on your path. You are where you should be and the right opportunity will unfold for you.
Trust Your Journey
Most important, trust in your journey. Follow your plan and stick with it. Every conversation, job interview, and application leads to our next step. You will end up in the role and position that is meant for you.
School is back in session and my “summer sabbatical” is over. As the calendar turns and the days sneakily get shorter, I am curious about what my next step holds. However, it’s now up to me to follow my schedule and trust my own strength and new entrepreneurial path. Yes, there are shaky moments but those are mostly shadowed by the bliss of making solo decisions and helping people and organizations reach their goals in such positive, impactful ways. When self-doubt starts to tug, I remind myself that I trust myself. Because trusting yourself and the power of YOU is the best decision you can make. Let’s encourage each other to have a bit more faith in what we bring to this world…both inside an organization and out.
From employer branding to individual PR, everyone loves a good thought leader. For organizations, solid digital marketing programs are chock full of articles, information, and news that give something of value to their customers. It’s the same for individuals. Maintaining a robust, enriching social media footprint allows you to be a recognized commodity and leader in your professional community. As enticing as this may be, it can be terrifying to step through the shadows and find a voice of your own. Relax–here are some tips to have you tweeting (in the right way!) sooner than you think.
Find Your Social Purpose
Before you start tweeting or Insta’ing on impulse, do some due diligence to think about what the point of your iterations will be. Here are six steps to get you started:
Find an appropriate headshot. Take a serious look at your online image as it exists today. If someone met you for the first time, would she recognize you based upon your current LinkedIn image? If your answer is “probably not,” it’s time to find a photographer and update your photo. The Muse has a great article on how to update your picture for free.
Identify your Platforms. Research various social media platforms out there and choose the top 1-3 that you feel comfortable with. It’s a good idea to think about separating church and state. You may decide to dedicate your (private) Facebook account to family updates and select Twitter (public) as a better professional platform. Don’t over extend yourself by launching your brand across 5 different tools. Choose a couple. Start small.
Make a list of what excites you in your space. Are you passionate about machine learning? Spend some time researching #hashtags resonating with your passion. Find out what the thought leaders in this space are saying and keep a digital bookmark of relevant articles that you find interesting.
You’ve Got Nothing to Say. Don’t worry about pontificating in an article or starting from scratch–think more “curating” content rather than creating content. You may be leery about putting your own opinion out there but starting off by stating what you thought was interesting about an article you read will slowly build your confidence.
Find Relevant Conferences. So what if you can’t attend personally? Go out digitally and explore national conferences related to your passion and interest and start following them. These personalized hashtags are great ways to identify influencers and figure out who to follow and where to “be” digitally.
Create your Schedule. Carve out 2 days per week that are your “research” days, and then figure out 1-2 other days a week that are your posting days. HubSpot offers great tips on best times to post so that you can maximize your voice. It can feel daunting enough to put your words out there–maximize how many people will actually see what you wrote!
Keep it Simple
Start small with building and launching your social profile–keep consistent with your purpose and voice. Try not to get bogged down and consumed with how many “Likes” you get or if a post seems to not garner much reaction. Be focused on the greater goal which is to position yourself as a Thought Leader in your space with a great voice and opinion to share. A great way to build some online karma is to re-share stories or articles that resonate with you. Authors appreciate you opening up their thoughts to your network.
Starting small will help you gain an online reputation that is clean and easy to manage and update. In today’s competitive market, being professional with something fresh and interesting to say will always help you stand out in the right way and I’m always here to help!
What would you do in your career if you weren’t afraid? Would you offer to put together a presentation for the conference? Go for that promotion? Would you take a break? What kind of noise would you make?
You can make noise in your career even if you’re happy with your current job or situation. We all have career goals and dreams–some of them are too foreboding to even think about. But what if you did think about it? What if?
Realize Your Blue Sky
Putting a plan in place empowers you to make decisions you never thought possible. Sometimes we have time to think about taking a risk and other times it’s not a choice. Spending thoughtful time in the background of your career pondering “what if” scenarios allows you to blue sky a pipe dream and be prepared for both the expected and unexpected.
Earlier this summer, after over 8 years with WunderLand, I decided to give my own fantasy a try. When our youngest child was just a baby I pondered what it would be like to quit my job and spend focused time with my children. I remember zooming years forward on my calendar, mathematically calculating just when exactly we’d be done paying for daycare and set the date of May, 2019 for my break.
For years the idea of quitting my job was a fantasy. My pie in the sky idea. I never gave myself credit that I could actually make it work. I put off sitting down to do the hard work, figuring there was no way I could make it work or pull it off. I resigned myself to thinking it would never be possible. It’s easier to procrastinate than it is to be proactive but as the years marched forward and our children got older I knew that I would regret not taking my risk. So I sat down, looked the good and bad of my intention in the eyes, and put together a plan.
Planning Cancels Self Doubt
The extent of your risk doesn’t matter. Whether it’s finding a new role or taking a career break, devising a plan ensures confidence and trust in your steps forward. A solid plan should cover:
Developing your story
There were many uncomfortable evenings spent hunched over my glowing laptop, trying to figure out how to re-orchestrate our budget to make my risk a financial possibility. Just opening our budget in Excel was scary. Each time I sat down to look at the numbers, I was overcome with doubt. I doubted my ability to land another job after taking a break. I would wake up at 2:00 in the morning thinking what am I doing to our financial house? But I spent the time to figure out what to cut, how to save, and determined what I needed to do (and what the timeline was to do it) to earn enough to make it possible. Leaning on my plan gave me confidence.
Taking a risk while knowing your financial bottom line is empowering. The very thought of salary negotiations can be enough to simply decide to stay put or not make a change. Knowing how much you need to earn is an awesome, powerful piece of information. Familiarizing yourself to what your bottom line number is opens you up to consider jobs in a new field or completely different area of your expertise. This knowledge allows you to decide what level risk is appropriate for your situation.
Tendering my resignation was my first out of body experience. I actually looked down and saw myself as I walked to close the door to speak with my manager privately and saw the words tumbling out…a live stream of a well-planned and executed departure script. I wondered if it was possible to shove all those tumbling words back inside. “Quitting” seemed like a forever sentence until I realized that I had a plan and tendering my notice was simply the start.
Determining your timeline isn’t just figuring out when you’re going to make the move, but it’s figuring out how long you’ll plan on taking the risk. Perhaps there’s a chunk of time that you feel comfortable devoting to your goal. Move forward in your calendar and determine not just the date you’re making the decision but for how long you believe you might need to accomplish your intention. Whether it’s starting a search, preparing for a career elevation, or deciding to take a break, figuring out your date and timeline will help you hold yourself to your goal.
I made my career jump with the intentions of spearheading carpools (minus checking my work email at the same time) and taking care of my children. What I didn’t foresee was how to answer questions about why I left my job or explain it to others.
Take some time to write out what you’re doing and why…and then tuck that away somewhere to remind yourself when you feel nervous or unsure of your decision. I love to make lists and one my favorites so far is what I accomplished during this summer with my children. I listed all the camp drop offs I shuttled, the day we toured an Amazon Fulfillment Center (which I highly recommend!), and even jotted down the dates where we did nothing at all. Making a list of your story reminds you of why you made your decision and what you accomplished along the way.
Your Risk is Your Reward
I found peacefulness and confidence through taking a risk by following my plan. Yes, it’s scary to not have a “known.” I’m pulling on reserves (both financial and mental strength) to trust in myself and find courage to discover. And discovering is exciting because it isn’t a bounty of happy but a map of unknown that for the first time I’m giving myself permission to wander and pursue.
I am enjoying less insane mornings getting the kids out the door, volunteering for after school activity carpooling, and squeezing in our evening walks as the sun sets earlier. I feel summer winding down which coincides with my plan telling me to think about what’s next. I might have time before summer slips away to encourage our 6 year old to give up her training wheels. In many ways, I feel like I just shed my own. I’m a little wobbly but trusting in my plan. What would you do if you could do anything? Having a plan helps you realize you can. And I’m always here to help.
A little over 8 years ago, I walked through the doors of WunderLand. Back then, WunderLand was a hungry, one-and-a-half year old start-up with a hand-crafted team of folks whose mission was simple yet fierce: provide the service of staffing in the manner of how we’d like to be treated, ourselves, as individuals. WunderLand’s green and white cheery logo in their temporary office space breathed ambition alongside the founding team’s mighty desire to hold true to treating others how we want to be treated. The afternoon of my interview I wanted to just set my bag down and start working: I accepted the job immediately. When you find the right role you simply feel it and it’s infectious across both sides. I speak with many people who are equally eager to dig in and get settled but despite today’s booming staffing climate, they simply can’t find a job.
Where Are All the Jobs?
Despite the low unemployment rate and all the boisterous chatter of how great the job market is, senior through executive-level candidates call me routinely feeling stuck in an extended search, struggling to find the right next job. These folks are frustrated hearing how wonderful the economy is yet the right opportunity seems impossible to find. They apply to numerous job postings but they never hear back. They get wrapped in a multi-week interviewing cycle that ends up with a corporate restructure bringing them back to Square One. They fall into a nebulous black hole. When these candidates finally do hear back for a role they applied to, the position isn’t as exciting or the pay is completely off base. Things aren’t matching up and they are quickly losing patience.
Patience and Trust
You are not the only one going through this. Searches are lasting a long time and there are more people stuck than you think. Patience and trust are two very important hallmarks to persevere through an extended job search.
As we progress along our path, our careers and job searches become more complicated. Our household budgets may increase while our need for flexibility grows…our careers become more robust and high-level. There simply are fewer higher-level roles making these desirable jobs more in demand which leads to a longer, more complicated search. Extended searches are emotionally taxing so here are some tips to maintain your positivity:
Define your individual contributions. How have you positively impacted an organization’s bottom line? What were the numbers and analytics behind your work? What makes you unique? Jot down your successes on notes and stick them all around your office…surrounding yourself with Post-Its of your achievements and successes will help keep you focused on your unique and valuable qualities during an isolating search.
Take stock of your personal evolution. Think about who you’ve become during your tenure and try to sort out what really matters to you right now. We can get stuck in a career track that can suddenly, and sometimes without warning, cause us to pause and take a look at winging it and going in a different direction. Yes it’s scary to look toward that unknown but staring into that void can open up amazing possibilities.
Stay in communication. Get out and meet people, call your connections to talk, keep in communication.
Trust yourself. The right role does come along. It will be scary and it will be frustrating when you see or read about others’ career successes while you feel stuck but keep focused on what you and you alone offer.
This year marks my 15th year within the recruiting and staffing industry. These years have afford me the great honor of helping companies and individuals through complex hiring and career decisions. It’s impossible to not be inspired by those who take the jump and go in a new path—or push through a grinding search to find just the right role. The best guiding lesson I’ve learned during these 15 years is the insight to see that the right person lands the right job. Allow yourself patience and trust. Meanwhile, I’m always here to help.
I’m at the quarter-mark in reaching my goal to swing through the trees this summer with my girls. Making time to train and work out seemed impossible a few weeks ago–now, I can’t imagine not making the time to focus. I am carving the time for me and my goal, one rep at a time.
Sure, doubt constantly creeps into my mind warning me that the trees will be too far apart or the rope will be too high for me to reach. Who do I think I am, now, to start this process? I shush the voice and instead reflect on every candidate I’ve worked with and watched traverse their own Career Playing Field. The folks who landed the raise, coveted title, and growth they deserved–they achieved those goals by defying the negative voice. They focused and took a jump. They left comfortable, tenured jobs for a risk. They stayed up late and plodded through the intimidation of updating a resume. They swore at their computer as they forced themselves to grind through coding their own website.
So each week I step forward toward my own goal. To every person who goes out on a limb applying for that next level job, who sits in a waiting room waiting for the interview to begin, and then chooses to accept the next thing, cheers to taking ownership and control.
Next steps can be scary but they all start the same. One action at a time. Plan a date, set your calendar, and watch how awesome you are at carving your new path. Believe in your ideas–you have the courage to make those ideas your reality.
The start of the New Year is exciting–it’s a fresh start, a blank calendar, a new page. For some people it’s hitting the gym. I am part of this group of people–the New Year, New Work Out folk. Santa brought our two girls a backyard obstacle course and I’m committing myself to being able to scale the rope that will be hanging in between our two very old and (hopefully) very sturdy maple trees. When I watched our girls unwrap that gift I could see their minds spinning, imagining themselves propelling across the trees to make it to the other side. In that moment I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be watching from the ground, looking up, and wondering how it felt to be suspended by your own strength. So, I’m going to work to get myself across those trees.
Some of us may be facing obstacles: a job that doesn’t fit right, unemployment checks not covering the mortgage, or feeling stuck and not knowing how to take a next step. While you watch your LinkedIn Feed ripe with So-and-So’s New Opportunity it’s important to stay focused on who you are and what you contribute to the world around you so that you can stay focused on your next step. Look beyond the job to the ways that you impact your community, friendships, and family. Make a list of these contributions and tuck that list away in a place that you carry with you every day. Becoming intimately familiar with your impact on the world will carry you through uncertainty.
Stick with your plan–even if you are not quite sure what that plan is. Find a goal that resonates with you inside or outside of work and set a small plan to achieve it. I’ll report back at the end of August to see if my plan carried me through the trees. Let’s rally each other to help us achieve what we’ve each set forth…professionally and personally. Here’s to a fantastic year.
Chicago’s American Marketing Association continuously offers high quality, valuable networking and enriching events for both job seekers and hiring managers within the marketing space. Their Career Smart events are no exception! I’m excited to be speaking at their upcoming Career Smart event taking place this Thursday, November 15.
2018’s job market is super competitive for both job seekers and hiring manager searchers. Whether you’re hiring for critical positions in the midst of the lowest unemployment yet–or thinking of launching a job search of your own, come join me in learning about effective tips, helpful trends, and valuable resources to help you stand out. I’ll be speaking with Jess Moyer, SVP of Marketing and Operations at Gibraltar Business Capital. Jess brings a fantastic career leading marketing initiatives from both large-scale organizations and mid-sized companies in the financial sector.
The event is at the IIT Stuart School of Business at 565 W. Adams on Thursday, November 15, starting at 5:30 PM. Members of the AMA can register for free and there is a charge of $50 for non-members. I’d love to see you there! More details can be found on the AMA Career Smart website.
What if you’re happy in your current job? You are satisfied with your pay…you make enough to cover your essentials, sock away for tomorrow, and even sign up the kiddos for park district activities. Heck, you even have the flexibility to coach soccer. You know the players on your team, you have seniority, and you’re quite, well, comfortable…but the rumbling freight train of today’s stellar job market shouts, “It’s a candidate’s job market!” “These are the highest salaries we’ve ever seen!” “It’s the lowest unemployment rate, in, like FOREVER!” If you’re not part of this action you may, well, feel like you’re missing out.
Reading the constant stream of New Job Alerts on LinkedIn can also really make you feel like you’re the jokester for not bailing from your great gig. You’re not rapidly applying for jobs but you may chat with a recruiter from time to time. You may entertain an interview for something that sounds really enticing but the next morning you realize you’ve got it pretty good so you stay put. You’re happy…but you feel a tug and are unsure if staying put is silly when there’s all this great opportunity out there. Is it OK to be OK in your role?
We hope–especially those of us who make our living in the staffing industry–that unemployment will forever stay as low as it is today, in October of 2018. It is thrilling to see so many folks gainfully employed while those on the market actually have roles to choose from…but will this high last forever?
Refer back to your list of priorities and be assured that the role you are in meets what you need to feel satisfied. Comparison is the thief of joy–revel in where you landed yourself in your career and allow yourself to feel satisfied in the path that you walked. When it’s time for you to take your next step, you’ll know because your list of priorities will shift, change, or flow–and when they do, I’ll be right here to help.