Sometimes people choose to take a lower-level job to decrease their workload or job pressure or simply to help add balance to their lives. But what if your only way back into paid employment is by taking a job way “beneath” you?
What do you do when a lower title or paycheck is NOT something you’re willingly choosing for yourself – except as a way to start working again?
My own “working my way back up” story
I remember a time in my own career, during another bad economic time, when I already had an MBA plus managerial experience, but couldn’t find a job at my level – and money was running out. At that point I decided to take a chance and just jump back in – not worrying about title or how it would look on my resume. (There are some ways to handle this.)
So I signed up with a temp agency and took some receptionist jobs at $10/hr. But I did each assignment with a smile, and I always did my best to go out of my way to be noticed in a good way, and make good connections. And I did.
One of these temp jobs led to a low-level data entry job which I was able to turn into a higher-paying temp job that happened to be in an area that allowed me to jump to a low-level but full-time IT security job (something I had never done before but was willing to learn).
And while doing this job, I met and helped people in the company who eventually recommended me for a well-paying project manager job at the same company. It took a while, but I got myself back!
Some tips for working your way back up
Attitude – No matter what job you’re doing, the way you handle yourself shows. I’m not just talking about being positive and smiling a lot – although that can help. I mean remembering to see yourself as a whole person – with all your prior experience and skills. But not acting as if you’re lowering yourself and not being snooty. Just do your job well, look for ways to help others, and be your whole self.
Go Above and Beyond – Do the job you are being expected to do, but don’t stop there … go further. Whatever you do, do it the very best you can. Be there in the moment and not wishing you were somewhere else. People you work with can sense how you really feel … and if you are someone who looks for ways to help in addition to your required work, you stand out for it even more.
Solve, Create, Develop – Take time to learn the ropes and be seen as a person who is good at whatever you take on, but then look for ways to help make things better. Even with an MBA, I was not too proud to suggest and implement a new filing system for one temp job, which actually resulted in a job offer I didn’t accept.
I also helped redesign some simple elements of an Access database – after quickly teaching myself Access! And then, in the low level security job, I saw a chance to create a better user manual for others doing my job. My suggestion. My hard work with no extra compensation. But it gave me added credibility for the next job I moved to.
Connect – Wherever you are in your career, the relationships you build can turn out to be what your career is built on. Look for people to connect with – sometimes by helping, sometimes by just being there and listening. And sharing your own hopes and goals.
Keep your eyes open for new opportunities – One of the benefits of connecting to others and building relationships, is that you become plugged in to new opportunities, perhaps where you are or even in other departments.
I heard of the project manager job from someone I had built a relationship with. And although there was a part of me that felt a little shy about asking, I swallowed and took a chance. And I not only got his recommendation, but that of others I had connected with and who knew my work.
What else can you be doing?
Meanwhile, remember to be building new knowledge and skills in areas you want to grow into. You can even volunteer to add to your skill base. You’ll meet people in those places too, and perhaps further increase your chances of moving out and up.
And now and always, keep networking on the inside, on the outside (even if you’re shy), and anywhere you can think of. Look for more opportunities wherever you are to grow your connections and find possible job openings you wouldn’t hear of in any other way.
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