Is the "transition" job a worthwhile move for someone established in his or her career? It’s been considered preferable, traditionally, to hold out for something in one’s own field rather than take an unrelated job simply to pay the bills. But as with so many other things in this recession, conventional wisdom is not what it used to be.
One of the reasons many unemployed workers do volunteer work today is to fill their resumes between jobs. In support of transition jobs, Denene Brox argues that they fulfill the same purpose — while offering a salary to boot:
In addition to providing you an income, transition jobs put you back into the ranks of the employed, the group most attractive to potential employers. "Transition jobs help you avoid those large gaps of unemployment on your resume, which is a concern in this economy," says Nancy DeCrescenzo, director of career services at Eastern Connecticut State University.
The experts quoted by Brox also seem to think that one of the main reasons transition jobs became stigmatized no longer applies:
"I don't think taking a transition job will hurt your resume, because the number-one thing that recruiters and employers ask is what you've been doing with your time. So you're better off doing something than nothing. It shows that you're a go-getter -- that you're out there working hard, doing whatever it takes to pay your bills," says career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman.
Keri Coffman-Thiede on JobDig goes one step further — to her, a transition job is something that should be looked on as a positive opportunity. She relates her own experience as an example:
A transition job is work that is easy, you CAN’T take it home with you, and your career aspirations are in no way tied to it. For example, I used to be a recruiter. I called myself “a recruiter.” I felt loyal to the organization and incredibly responsible for filling their / my open positions. My ego and sense of self was wrapped up in this work -- work that stressed me out and I didn’t find personally satisfying. Then, I took a customer service position in the same organization and life changed.
Coffman-Thiede discusses both the difficulties and rewards of her choice:
This “transition” job was a drop in status, responsibility, stress and pay AND allowed me the space for the work I DID want to come into my life. I literally could feel my muscles relax more and more as each month passed in this new, easy job. By about the fourth month, I had new energy and was interested in exploring what I would really like to do for work. Eight months into this transition job, the answer hit me as clearly as if it were written in the sky…I’m a coach! The great thing about this transition job is it also allowed me the time and energy to then pursue my dream job. I spent the next 2 years in this transition job while I got my training and certification in coaching and starting my own practice.
If you think a transition job might be for you, Patricia Soldati has a fantastic column on how to succeed in getting one by explaining to potential employers why you are motivated and qualified to make such a leap:
Career-changers have an additional challenge: How do you convey why you spent 10 or 20 years doing one thing and are now intent on doing another? In other words, what is your 'transition story' -- that makes good sense AND emotionally grabs the hiring manager? The situation requires you to prepare a story that is rational, succinct, compelling and totally positive. You must be able to share it in a couple of minutes. And, there must be an emotional component that captures the imagination of the interviewer.
Soldati provides great guidelines for doing just that. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, but here are her three basic steps: 1) explain what you’ve done, (2) explain why you’re changing, (3) explain what value you bring to the new field.
It looks like we've hit a turning point for the transition job — whether for financial, strategic or other reasons, it's no longer taboo to take one.