The Art of Making Lemonade

A survival job is, basically, a low-paying job that a job-seeker takes on a temporary basis when unemployed to cover basic living costs. Many people take survival jobs to cover monthly living expenses, avoid bankruptcy and to have income while pursuing their career profession.

For many people, especially newly landed immigrants with years of experience in a skilled occupation and enjoying a higher wage/salary, it can feel like a gigantic step backwards. For some it can be a de-moralizing experience going from working as a respected professional in one’s home country to flipping burgers at McDonalds.

But remember, it is better to be underemployed than unemployed. The old saying goes that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, so instead of feeling bitter and defeated, take charge of your situation and re-enter the workforce. Believe it or not, taking a survival job comes with many benefits.

Firstly, it will give a source of income and alleviate the stress and anxiety of being unemployed and dealing with bills. Also, the simple task of working, whether it is a professional job or a survival position, makes you feel productive and engages your need to contribute. Taking a survival job can also be the perfect confidence-booster that you may need from being unemployed for a lengthy period of time.

Aside from the immediate benefits, a survival job can help in your career-related job search.

According to a recent survey, many employers report having respect for unemployed immigrants who are willing to work survival jobs to support their family. Taking a lower-paying job can also increase your marketability by gaining new skills. For example, a former marketing director can gain strong customer service and inventory control skills as a sales clerk that can be added to a resume.

And who says that a survival job has to be a miserable and de-moralizing experience? Make it fun and go for a job related to your field of interest. For example, if you love music, get a job at a local record store. Also, keep an eye out for companies with a strong reputation as it could lead into opportunities closer to your specialty in the future.

Most importantly, take pride in yourself and don’t let your ego get in the way. There is no shame in taking a lower-paying job while working towards getting back in your field. Some of the most successful and celebrated individuals had to, at some point, work as a gas station attendant, cashier or dishwasher to make ends meet while working towards their dream. You are no different. Go to work with a positive attitude and take pride in a hard day’s work.

Think of a survival job as you would the law of physics. In order to propel something forward, you need to take a few steps back to draw energy. For example, before you throw a ball, you need to rear your throwing arm back to gain the maximum amount of force necessary. Think of taking a survival job in the same sense, you are taking a few steps back to launch yourself with an optimal amount of force and energy that will launch you into a bright and successful future.