When I tell my career story, it starts with a job in public relations that drained me and ends with a career in leadership development and career coaching that fills my bucket every day.
What I don’t tell many people about are the stop-gap jobs in between. What's a stop-gap job? It's the job you take between the job you left because you couldn't do it a day longer and the job you can't wait to do, but haven't yet landed (or discovered!). More simply, it's a regular job that buys you time to figure out your next step.
Here were mine:
Customer service at Overstock.com: helping customers track packages, fielding complaints, and doling out $5 discounts like candy. FYI — if you’re mad enough, CR reps have the freedom to grant up to $5 credits. Boom.
Large appliance delivery: When Overstock.com got lame, I started delivering range stoves and ovens to pricey cabins in the mountains of Utah. From 5am until 7pm every day we delivered and unloaded huge appliances. Back breaking work but I got paid in cash — don’t tell Uncle Sam.
Alarm system sales: When delivering steel ovens got lame, I sold alarm systems door-to-door in Nebraska. What made me think this would be a better job? Not sure. But it wasn’t. Knock a door, offer a free system, plant a sign in the yard, and charge $40 a month for two years, more than making up the cost of the free system. I was bad at selling and worse at handling the rejections. Within the first two months I sold a respectable 40 systems. By the end of the fourth month, I had sold five more.
Although lame, these jobs served a valuable purpose. I’ve said before that when the ship is sinking, it’s tough to stand at the bow with a telescope and dream about that bright future. Better to get off the ship into a lifeboat, then reset your course.
If you’re in a dysfunctional job or environment that doesn’t allow you the energy or mind space to come home and dream, consider getting a stop-gap job. First of all, you can make ~$20k-30k a year doing them — enough to survive for 3-6 months — and the work will leave you with energy at the end of the day to do the important work of figuring out your next step.
Do they end up on my resume? No way. The only value these stop-gap jobs added was freedom and time to explore other options. "But don't employers ask about the gap between one actual job and another?" No one has ever asked me why I had a nine-month gap. In my opinion, if someone asks you tell them: "I took some time off to figure out what I really wanted to do, and this job (that I'm interviewing for) is it."
Don't overthink the stop-gap job. Dive in, work hard, earn your minimum wage, then get home and figure out what you really want to do.
Plus, they make for a great story.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
I post here once a week on Tuesdays, every week, at 4:59am. You can also sign up below to have these posts magically air-dropped straight to your inbox.