Thursday, December 16, 2010

If you get in the pool, good things may happen.

I use the term “getting in the pool” as a metaphor for entering into an environment that on the surface feels uncomfortable and unsatisfying. But, once one gets used to it, the experience may end up satisfying.
In a work context, that uncomfortable new environment could be represented by accepting a position that deviates from your preferred career path; it could mean considering temporary, contract, or consulting work; it could mean taking a salary less than you are accustomed; or it could mean doing work, you thought you’d never do again.
As a career professional, my role is to support forward movement, and to help people realize their goals. I don’t advocate anyone accepting unhappiness at work. However, in this job market, I believe it’s important to try and be part of the workforce whenever possible: get in the pool, and good things may happen. It beats waiting on the sideline.
I realize there are many folks on the sideline, who would love to be back in the workforce, but are having difficulty making that happen. If one has been out of work for over a year that in itself creates a major hurtle for employment. Thus, it’s important to consider finding a way back in, even if it’s not in an optimal situation.
This point goes back to the old saying that “it’s easier to find a job, when you have one.” One would think that given the high unemployment numbers in the US, unemployed job seekers would be given the benefit of the doubt. That is true for short periods of unemployment--six months or less. However, when one has been unemployed for a year or more, with very little to no work exposure during that timeframe, that job seeker is at an even greater disadvantage. Even in this job market, potential employers worry about why someone who has been out of work for a long time is not getting hired. Resumes with long periods of unemployment, cause potential employers to pause. If they are comparing two candidates with similar stills, they will usually feel more comfortable with the employed candidate, versus the one who isn’t.
In my years of recruiting I’ve seen first hand that activity leads to opportunity. It’s a given that a job seeker should be sending out resumes, networking, interviewing, and talking to people everyday. In the current job market, as many have found, that still may not be enough to land the right position. If job search activity is not doing the trick, perhaps getting back into the workforce in some other capacity could help. Even if a job is not ideal, there is value in leaving the house everyday to go to work. Meeting new people, making new contacts, learning new skills, learning new software, getting exposed to a new industry, or career function, all can potentially open new doors that you hadn’t even thought of. Your overall job search doesn’t need to stop, but now when you make new contacts, you can say you’ve been working. Working on a contract basis, part-time, volunteering, or even in a different type of position, is an easier sell to a potential employer, than saying, you’ve been looking for work for the last 18 months and haven’t found the right position.
There are of course drawbacks and pitfalls to accepting just any type of job, or working too long as a temporary worker or consultant. But, jumping into the workforce in some capacity may end up creating new opportunities that sitting on the sideline may not turn up.