Should You Take A Temporary Job?

by Brian Cormack Carr on September 30, 2010

Recently, a client came to me with a dilemma. He had been laid off – a casualty of the economic downturn – and was concerned about finding new work. Then he was offered a temporary position in a respectable company, but doing a job that wasn’t his ideal. The question he was grappling with was this: whether to take the job, or to hold out for something more suitable and hopefully more permanent.

My question back to him was – how permanent is “permanent”? In this day and age, few jobs can realistically be considered permanent (and this has little to do with the recession). The days of “a job for life” are long gone, with most people changing jobs on a fairly regular basis, and many people opting for a “portfolio career”: one made up of several income streams. In addition, temporary jobs nowadays are often seen as being just as viable and significant as permanent ones, and they can provide an excellent way of building up a rich and impressive CV.
 
My second question was – what does “ideal” mean for you? Anyone looking for a job that’s a precise match for all of their specific talents, interests and abilities – or an exact replica of the job they just left - might have a long wait, especially in this economy.  That’s not being defeatist, it’s being realistic – and realism opens the door for practical action. 

We spent some time examining his current priorities, and drew up a list of pros and cons of taking the position. What stuck out for him were two notable “pros”: firstly, that his chances of securing something better would probably be enhanced by being in employment in the first place, and secondly, that he needed to keep earning a living, since his savings were dwindling.
 
He opted to take the position, and consider it a “good enough job” that would put him in a good place ready for his next move.  I encouraged him to consider two other things:

Firstly, if the job was horrendous, he shouldn’t stay. No job is worth losing your health or sanity over.  A ”good enough temporary job” is one that helps you to pay the bills, doesn’t drive you to the brink of depression or insanity, and which leaves you with enough leisure time to pursue your interests (and to find more permanent work, if that’s what you want). 

Secondly, that he do some concentrated work on building up a clearer picture of what his ideal job might look like. With that picture in mind, the chances of spotting it if it happened along would be greatly increased.  And if it didn’t happen along? Well, he’d have a terrific blueprint to help him get out there to find it – or create it! 

I’m currently developing an interactive coaching programme which will help clients – and readers of this blog – to find or create their ideal work. Watch this space for more information. 

For some interesting facts on temporary work (and the debunking of some persistent fallacies), take a look at this article on the subject.

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© Brian Cormack Carr, 2010

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol October 1, 2010 at 1:29 am

Excellent blog Brian. I will show this blog to my nephew-in-law as he struggles to find another position. This blog will be like a deep inhale of fresh breath for him I’m sure.

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Salvora October 6, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Good article, and I agree. Thank you.

I am curious about this concept you use “portfolio career”. Can you explain what that is and give an example please?

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Brian Cormack Carr October 6, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Glad it has been helpful, Carol!

Hi Salvora – a portfolio career is one based on doing two or more paid activities simultaneously.

My career could be described in this way, since I currently have two jobs. I work as Chief Executive of a charity, and I’m also a life and career coach.

Some people combine three or more income-generating activities to build up their portfolio career. I know someone who works part-time as a teacher, part-time in a shop, and also generates some additional income by selling her paintings.

Often, people who work freelance are able to build up portfolio careers, by combining similar but distinct career functions that they are able to charge for – like training and consulting, for example.

Here’s a useful article about portfolio careers (including their pros and cons):

http://www.londoncareers.net/features/smp/smp16112007.htm

Hope that helps!

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Salvora October 7, 2010 at 11:50 am

Thanks, I understand! My career is a portfolio career then, I just didn’t know it had such a fancy name! ;)

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Brian Cormack Carr October 12, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Wonderful, what do you do for a living, Salvora?

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Salvora October 13, 2010 at 12:12 am

I don’t yet earn a full living. I teach Spanish as a FL. I can translate from English into Spanish and I can proofread Spanish. I have those three skills, and I look for freelance jobs in any of the three (a permanent full time position in any of the three is not so easy to find). That’s why I have a portfolio career. I hear sometimes people like me are called “language consultant”, but I find that a bit pretentious :)

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Brian Cormack Carr October 14, 2010 at 12:27 am

Those are wonderful skills to have – and increasingly sought-after, in this multi-cultural, intercontinental world of ours! Whatever you call yourself, it sounds like you’ve found a great approach to making a living using your skills.

Here’s the million-dollar question (two of them, actually): 1) what do you enjoy most about using your language skills? 2) what things do you love most of all in life (doesn’t have to be anything to do with language)?

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Salvora October 14, 2010 at 9:47 am

1) In class I enjoy correcting student’s mistakes, of which they are usually unaware, so that they can speak better. I also like proofreading for the same reason. I like to work on a text so that it has no mistakes before it gets published.

2) In life I love cooking wonderful suppers for my friends and having very happy suppers with cheerful people. I also like gardening and I would love to create a very pretty garden. I also love decoration, but in particular arranging things in space so that they look nice and the use of space is maximised (decluttering people’s spaces, in other words).

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Brian Cormack Carr October 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Ok – so from that we can tell that a skill you enjoy using is using your attention to detail to ensure that spoken and written language is correct. That’s useful to know, because when you look for any job employing that skill, you’ll know that if it involves attention to detail, you’ll probably enjoy doing it. That’s not true for everyone, so you have a very marketable and transferrable skill there.

The reason I asked the second question is because the things we *love* to do are a direct pointer to our gifts and talents, and can be a marvellous indication of what we might enjoy doing for a career (although they don’t have to be). The things you love indicate to me that you have a talent for creativity, hospitality, and creating warm and welcoming environments that people can appreciate and enjoy. That probably means that any work or hobby that enabled you to express those talents would be very satisfying to you.

I talk more about this in these articles:

http://cormackcarr.com/2009/07/26/being-yourself-or-how-to-find-your-purpose-in-life/

http://cormackcarr.com/2009/12/28/are-you-using-your-gifts/

http://cormackcarr.com/2009/10/25/q-a-help-i-cant-make-a-living-doing-what-i-love/

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Salvora October 14, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Yes, I think that is right. I didn’t know myself so well in the past or maybe I have changed in recent year. But I did not make the best education/training choices in the past.

I will check those articles, thank you.

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branchenverzeichnis October 26, 2010 at 7:55 am

Greetings, this is a genuinely absorbing web blog and I have cherished studying many of the content and posts contained on the web site, keep up the outstanding work and desire to read a good deal more stimulating articles in the future.

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Brian Cormack Carr October 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Thanks, Branchenverzeichnis – I’m very glad you’re enjoying it!

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Bvoss January 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Hello,

I was wondering if you should ever take a temporary job (maybe 3-6 months, maybe more) (paying more, more responsibility, better title)….which is HR Manager, over your current regular job (Clerical Specialist) , where you are under-employed, but you pay check is steady and the Health/Dental Benefits are good? Would you tell someone to take that risk?

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Brian Cormack Carr January 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hi Bvoss,

Thanks for the question. No, I’d never tell anyone to take the risk. Nor would I tell them not to! It’s not my business to do that – or anyone one else’s for that matter – only yours.

What I would suggest is that you consider all the different factors at play: the extent to which your current job is bearable or intolerable; what sort of position your finances outside of the workplace are in; whether you have responsbility for anyone else in relation to earning a living; the extent to which you’re comfortable with all the possible outcomes of deciding to take/not take the new job. Would there be any outcome you couldn’t deal with?

Only you have the full picture…

If we were working together on this in a coaching session, I might ask you the following questions, as a way of prompting you to think through your options:

*What are your reasons for considering taking the new job? Are there other ways of gaining what you think you’d gain from this position, without leaving your current work?

*How will you feel if you don’t take it, and the opportunity passes? Disappointed? Relieved?

*If you’re still in your current job in a month’s time, how will you feel about that? In six month’s time? In a year? In five years?

*What scope is there for you to take on greater responsibility in your current position? Which of your work contacts might support you in developing your current role to a level that satisfied you?

*If you took the new job, what scope would there be for you to return to your old job at the end of the temporary position? How might you preserve all your benefits, even during the move? Is a temporary secondment/placement into the new position a possibility, whilst maintaining your employment rights in your current job?

*What are the prospects of the new job becoming permanent? How secure is your current job?

*What steps can you explore which might help you make a transition from your current permanent clerical role to a new permanent HR Management role? Where might you find out about such options?

You get the idea. These questions aren’t designed to advise you to do anything – simply to help you look at the issue from all angles, and to get in touch with how you feel about the various possible outcomes.

Then, I might suggest you to set aside some time to deeply and privately consider the following eight questions. I’d suggest you did this quietly on your own, and that you jot down your answers. This can be a very powerful exercise, so if you do it – take your time over it, and make sure you think about the questions as deeply as you can.

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The important thing is – what do your answers tell you?

1. What will happen if I take the permanent position?
2. What will happen if I don’t take the permanent position?
3. What won’t happen if I take the permanent position?
4. What won’t happen if I don’t take the permanent position?
5. What will happen if I stay in my current job?
6. What will happen if I don’t stay in my current job?
7. What won’t happen if I stay in my current job?
8. What won’t happen if I don’t stay in my current job?

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