A Run Of Bad Jobs
Dear J.T. & Dale: The past five years have been awful. I have over 30 years of experience in manufacturing. I am dedicated, quick to learn and hard-working, but none of my past several jobs have worked out, lasting from three months to one and a half years. In my defense, I “dummied down” for positions because I needed the income to pay my bills. I am so disappointed that at this stage in my life (50) I am unemployed and struggling. Advice? — RON DALE: Ron sent us lengthy explanations of what had gone wrong in each job, ranging from a promised promotion that didn’t happen to an owner with mental problems. His most recent job ended with an email sent at 9 p.m. telling Ron he was “not a good fit for company” and letting him go. So, Ron, we understand how you’d be discouraged. J.T.: And we appreciate your honesty about taking jobs you felt were beneath your experience level in order to pay the bills. Now, going forward, if you could write a moral to the story of your past five years, what would it be? What have you learned from this experience and how would you do things differently? I think it’s really important to get clear on that so you can articulate it in interviews and build a strategy for connecting with the right types of employers. I’ve seen a lot of mid-career folks like yourself where desperation caused them to take roles that only made the situation worse. To break the cycle, you need to own your actions and be accountable for what choices you made. People in your network will appreciate the honesty and humility and be more willing to help you. DALE: As you network toward new job possibilities, you’ll need to turn financial pressure into energy for a better job search. It’s possible to be both desperate and picky. You do that by learning to rapidly research each prospective company and its owners, and to use social media to find people who’ve left the company and can fill you in on what it’s like to work there. (Remember: Good companies want to hire people who do this type of research.) Then there’s another issue to consider: your belief that the jobs were beneath you. When you “dummied down,” did you also shrink your efforts and attitude? Here’s an important principle: Every job is a chance to earn a better job. That includes lousy ones. Your work should be better than the job — that’s how you get promoted, and that’s also how you earn the right to work for a great company. JEANINE “J.T.” TANNER O’DONNELL is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. DALE DAUTEN is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Fl, New York, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.