Keep Looking or Settle for Less

Career & Job Advice from Joyce Lain Kennedy of Careers Now


My company has just laid off another 35 people.

If the ax falls on me, I may not be able to replicate the quality of job I hold, but instead have to take what I can get.

I've always read that it's best to stay on one's career track instead of switching around to new career fields and industries. However, I may not be able to afford that strategy.

What's your advice if I have to start job-hunting in this smoking rubble of an economy?

-- P.V.

My advice today makes a U-turn from what I recommended several years ago, when job losers in a recession could, figuratively speaking, go across the street and continue on their career track with a more successful competitor.

Ah, the good old days!

But as this ever more gloomy parade of industry bloodletting -- banking, retailing, construction, autos, newspapers, you name it -- marches on, we're all realizing this isn't a run-of-the-mill recession. And we need to rethink how we deal with career moves while it continues.


Earlier this year, I presented a pro-and-con discussion of whether it's still important for your future to stick with the tried-and-true advice of holding out for the "perfect" job in your career trajectory.

But as the jobless numbers continue to blow through the labor market with hurricane force, I've moved to the position articulated by career management consultant Neil McNulty of Norfolk, Va. His book on the topic will be published later this year; in the meantime, McNulty, a former military officer, is hosting "The Age of the Lifeboat Job" seminars.


In brief, here's McNulty's view:

"Look for and accept any job that keeps you in your home, doesn't require relocation, meets basic necessities, and is OK to ride out this storm."

"The people who fear taking steps back now and then -- worrying that backtracking will haunt them later when the economy turns around -- should stop fretting about that possibility. That's because when they finally are able to look for jobs that get their careers and salary history back on track, interviewers will understand what happened."

"In fact, they will think that candidate was a lot smarter than the guy who bit off his nose to spite his face because he would not settle for less than ideal, resulting in a year or more of unemployment, a choice often followed by personal finances in shambles."

McNulty says there's a lot of obsolete thinking being offered by some career advisers:

"Unfortunately, major career Web sites are still giving readers out-of-date pitches about 'how to find that great, perfect-for-you job.' In my observation, this is disastrous advice more than 70 percent of the time in today's highly unusual and restructuring economy, which some economists predict could continue for five years.

"Here's the reality: This economy faces a total recalibration. For now, many, perhaps most, people are simply going to have to step backward if they want to avoid a long search. In my opinion, anyone who is in middle management or above and holding out for that 'perfect fit' had better be prepared for a long job search."


When you're wondering what to do next and a lifeboat job comes along, accepting less than your ideal doesn't mean you'll be a lifer in that job.

It may turn out to be a better opportunity than you initially anticipated; if not, you'll keep your search radar switched on and dock elsewhere when the chance presents itself.

My take:

A future employer who isn't understanding about why you took a lifeboat job in this extraordinary period is too rigid to be a good boss.


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