How Can I Land a Survival Job while Looking for a Career Position?

How Can I Land a Survival Job while Looking for a Career PositionHow can I can get a survival job without appearing over-qualified? This was a question someone asked me via email recently, and because it’s a common and tricky scenario, I thought it would be an excellent topic to write about.

The individual who wrote to me has been unemployed for quite some time, waiting for a career position to come along, and she’s having difficulty finding a job that will pay the bills in the meantime.

The reason she’s having trouble finding a “survival job” is that she’s seen as being overqualified for these types of positions.

This is a common problem among professionals. During a period of unemployment, there comes a time when you need any job at all to help cover the mortgage. These types of jobs may be in a call center, a lower-level sales job, a retail position, a telecommuting job, or something in the food industry. Ideally, a survival job is something that offers flexibility in hours, allowing you to continue pursuing that career position.

Where possible, you want to look for a survival job that uses the same skills that you will use in your full-time career role. Try to find something that lines up with your career in some capacity and helps build your network. For instance, if you’re a financial advisor, you may look for something in insurance sales. Look for something that offers benefits to the career role that you really want. But  I know that doesn’t address the issue of being overqualified.

How do you get around the fact that you, as a career professional, are overqualified for the position?

There are three key things you can do.

  1. Alter your resume. You will likely be applying for survival jobs through an online job board or via a company website. Your resume is going to be read by Applicant Tracking System (ATS), and if you have experience that is beyond what the position calls, your resume will never make it past the initial screening. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service job that asks for 3–5 years of experience, the ATS is going to weed out any resumes that show less than 3 years of experience and those that show more than 5 years of experience. If you want a survival job, you must adjust your resume to show exactly the amount of experience required. So, if you have 20 years of experience, you’ll need to change the dates of your listed positions and adjust your years of experience from 20 to 5. This may seem sneaky and untruthful, but it is just to get past the screening process. When you speak with the employer, you can be upfront about your experience and honest about your situation. Most employers value the fact that you’re willing to do what it takes to provide for yourself and or your family.
  2. Edit your LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, if you’re in need of a survival job, you have to take a look at your LinkedIn profile and see if it makes sense to change it to match your survival job resume or leave it to reflect your career job goals. After all, LinkedIn itself is an ATS.
  3. Edit your resume achievements. In the US, there’s a lot of press encouraging folks to really focus on noting achievements in resumes. While this is generally a really great idea, be careful not to go overboard. When you’re looking for a survival job, you need to tone your achievements down. This might mean using slightly lower-level verbs, so, instead of using words like “managed” or “led,” try verbs like “coordinated” or “supervised.”

Remember, this is a tactical resume meant to land you a survival job, not a career job. With these types of positions, you just need employers to know that if they give you a job to do, you’ll get it done.

When you do land that survival job, you need to start thinking about how to frame it on your resume so it doesn’t hold you back from getting the next career job that comes along. The most recent job on your resume has the most influence over what happens next in your professional life. This is where you might benefit greatly from enlisting the help of someone like myself who can ensure that a survival job doesn’t derail your career.

Contact me for more information if you need help framing your survival job without sacrificing your fit for relevant career roles.

About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.