Dallas If you’re among the millions of Americans who have been out of work for what seems like an eternity, you may have to consider taking a “survival job” to keep paying your bills.
A survival job is typically a “low-end, low-paying job that a displaced job seeker takes on a temporary basis (often as a last resort) to cover basic living costs, in order to survive and avoid bankruptcy or worse,” said Randall Hansen, a job-search expert in Kettle Falls, Wash.
Such jobs don’t normally connect with your career aspirations and wouldn’t normally be in your sphere of consideration.
“Every day, I talk about it,” said Lisa Miller, chief people officer at CareerConnection, a networking and career management organization in the Dallas area. “I talk about: What you are doing to take on an interim job? What are you doing to earn extra cash? Where would you be comfortable to give of your skills?”
She advises against seeking a survival job immediately after losing your last one, if you can afford it.
“Losing your job is an emotional, complex question mark and people have to work through some of that,” she said. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done introspectively.”
Miller said to give yourself at least two weeks to a month to regroup from your job loss.
Early fall is a good time to be looking for a survival job, said Hansen, the founder of Quintessential Careers, a career development website.
“With college students heading back to campus and high school students returning to school, the time is now right for more jobs — survival or additional part-time jobs — for people struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
There are pluses and minuses about a survival job, Hansen said.
The pros include:
• Productivity: “While many of us may fantasize about a life of doing nothing, in reality, we have a strong work ethic, and even the most basic survival job makes us feel we are doing our part,” Hansen said.
• Confidence: “Being unemployed for any length of time is a blow to our egos, but being back in the work force may be just the confidence-booster needed to help find a new job in your field,” he said.
It’s also good for your mental health because it keeps your mind occupied, Miller said.
The cons of a survival job, according to Hansen, include:
• Lower wages: “Survival jobs do not pay the big money that you may have been getting in your last job, so you will still need to make drastic cuts to your budget and lifestyle,” he said.
• Multiple jobs: Because of low wages and limited availability, you may be forced to take multiple jobs to even obtain a livable wage for you and your family, Hansen said.
• Limited time for job-hunting: Working one or more survival jobs means you have less time to devote to hunting for a new job in your profession and less flexibility in scheduling job interviews.
“The ability to continue networking, job searching and interviewing is crucial,” Miller said. “Try to keep four hours in the morning or afternoon open for these activities.”
She said to exercise good judgment when selecting a survival job. If the job pays less than you would receive in unemployment benefits, it’s probably not worth it, she said.
“It would cost you more as an individual to do that job than it would be to receive your (unemployment) check and continue to look for more meaningful work that is more applicable to what your career path is,” she said.