May 30, 2011

Only as good as your last job?

I've heard often, "you're only as good as your last job." You may have held a high-ranking position three or four years ago, but if you've been spending the last six months wearing a red vest and saying "Welcome to Wal-Mart," then you're a Wal-Mart greeter and only a Wal-Mart greeter. Getting back into your chosen field becomes a lot more difficult once you've stepped out of it. But at the same time, I get conflicting advice from some financial counselors who say, "just get any job at all." Opinions, please: Would taking a low-level service sector job just to pay the bills, hurt someone's chances of getting a relevant job in his or her field later on?

I think any honest work is good work. If I were an employer I would not hold any job like that against a prospective employee. Sometimes people really can't find work in their field and have to take something else. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

It shows me that the person is determined to keep supporting themselves and is willing to do whatever work they find to keep paying the bills. That is a good thing and ought to be acknowledged and appreciated.

From the employee's perspective, I think it's important for people to hold their heads high and respect themselves too. I haven't had a full-time gig in about three years and I'm fine in that sense. I've been freelancing and blogging, and doing just fine for myself.

If an employer were to show signs of holding that against me, I'd be grateful because it would show me that they probably aren't a company I'd want to work for anyway. It's much better to know that ahead of time rather than after the fact.

It is difficult to recommend that someone just sit at home instead of working, and you're correct: many employers are prejudiced against the unemployed, which means it's _usually_ better to be working if you want to find a new job. However with the economic downturn, of course some people will have to step down a rung or two in order to find work. The important thing is to keep up with your reading and try to make something meaningful out of your work. I'm not sure that a CEO would ever take a job as a Wal-Mart greeter, but should you find yourself in such a situation, make the most of it and when interviewing, focus on the valuable skills you brought to that previous job. Some folks might be tempted to lie on their resume, but you should probably avoid doing so because eventually the truth will come out.

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