Meeting Your Short-term Need$ In a Long-Term Job Search
Historians hate it when countries engage in wars on multiple fronts. Countries lose because they spread themselves too thin. They need too many people, weapons, and food to win more than one fight at once.
Job seekers face similar challenges. You only have so much time, money, and mental space to make the right choices. It is even more difficult if you are not quite sure what to pursue next. Often this challenge is compounded. You are miserable in your job and therefore must leave but need the salary and want the next job to be fulfilling.
Money and career choices make people anxious for a reason. As a career coach I help people through this scenario frequently. How do you make an informed long-term decision even with short-term money woes?
Here are your options.
(1) Job searching while employed
- Financial security
- Less pressure to act quickly
- Higher confidence levels as an employed candidate
- Continued emotional impact if your work, boss, or colleagues stink
- The hours associated with a long-term search
- Will job inertia keep you from leaving if you do not go now?
(2) Quit your job and rely on savings or unemployment while searching
- You’ve the time to do a very deliberate search.
- Removes you quickly from a ‘toxic’ environment.
- Depleting your savings
- Will you lose confidence without your role/title?
- Some employers view unemployed candidates as less desirable
(3) Quick search—accepting the first full-time, long-term job that might be a good fit
- Gets you out of a ‘toxic’ environment
- Financial security if you have decided knowing your obligations
- Rarely a job that meets priorities other than different
- Pressure, real or imagined, to stay at this job longer so you do not look unreliable
(4): Locate quick short-term work
- You can take work where you control your schedule and income.
- Gets you out of a ‘toxic’ environment.
- You can leave at any time.
- You have the pressure to ensure a steady stream of income. Is this viable given your financial obligations?
- Usually, just meets financial needs or reduces what you take from savings.
If you answer YES to the three questions below, I recommend options one, that is, conducting a search while staying in your job.
- You have a predictable work and home schedule which affords you time to conduct a job search.
- Your financial and benefit needs are being met.
- Your workplace’s dysfunction does not spill out into your life and makes evenings and weekends challenging emotionally.
For most people #3 forces people to leave their job. Life has been feeling heavy and challenging and those who care about you are noticing it. If that is the case, I nudge people towards detachment, or emotional separation from the power work has over their life. Sometimes this is about learning to do the tasks as they are required, but not investing so much of yourself or your identity in the job, or the approval of an impossible boss. Additionally, setting more manageable hours can make a big difference. Likewise, developing a new practice that deals with the stress — yoga, exercise, meditation — can also help.
If detachment is not possible given your workplace, I tend to recommend option four, finding quick, short-term work.
Here is the methodical way to do it:
- Assess your financial situation. What do you need to earn monthly to cover your obligations? How much, if any, severance, or vacation pay might you still be owed? What are your savings, should you need to borrow from them?
- Compile what you could get paid doing short-term and who you know that can employ you to do it. Remember, you can do almost anything that brings in money. It does not have to be what you have done in the past. It might be that which pays you the highest hourly wage. The goal is to pay your bills for long enough to make the transition you need to make.
- Write each person that you compiled in the list above and assess what you are hearing. Follow-up quickly!!!
- Next write the people you think of as your ‘best networked’, offering an update and asking for suggestions? Follow-up quickly!!!
- Quit your awful job!
If you are tempted by options two and three, you are not unusual. They are quicker, but often not better. Oftentimes I have seen someone choose option two and be anxious about money the whole time, and then with their savings gone take whatever they can find. My bias is to give you the time and space to conduct a thorough search. Be more intentional about finding the right, next job, because a different job is not a better job.
The good news is that people do this all the time and so can you. Be a student of history and give yourself the gift of being in work that fulfills you.
—Russ Finkelstein is the opposite of your High School Guidance Counselor. A career coach, social entrepreneur, and advisor to founders, he is currently the Director of Coaching with the Roddenberry Fellowship, Coach-in-Residence with StartingBloc Fellowship, and a Co-Founder of Title8 a Legal Marketplace. He was a founder of the noted careers website Idealist.org and his new book, "Let's Sort Out Your Career Mess, Together..." is forthcoming in 2021.