How to Make the Most of Settling for a So-So Job in a Tight Economy

First some hard truths. It looks like we’re in for a rough ride for the foreseeable future. Recessions are not usually seen as times of career opportunity. For many of us, this might mean the job we have starts looking a little better – or at least the idea of jumping to a new job right now feels a little less tempting. Totally understandable.

It’s also a time to think about whether we really need 3 lattes a day or that new pair of shoes that kind of looks a lot like the pair we bought last year only sooo much cooler. For some of us, it means bringing our lunch to work more often and maybe renting more DVDs instead of going out to the movies. For some, it means thinking about what to give up or cut back on so our kids can at least have a decent meal – and in some cases what we give up is health care or adequate heat; not a pretty trade-off to be sure.

But while all this is going on, despite the million or so jobs that have been lost in 2008 so far – a staggering number – and despite the many hundreds of thousands more jobs that will still be lost, business will continue. Some companies will actually do well. Jobs will be created. New business will start and succeed. And companies will be hiring. This is how it works, no matter what the sobering numbers tell us. It’s important to remember that.

Even in these hard times, you can still find dream jobs. And you can still find opportunity to try new things and grow your career.  Of course…as always…do your research up front and find out as much as you can about the company and industry to at least make an informed choice.

BUT…and here’s the main point I want to make…some of us will NOT get that dream job. At least not right away. Experienced people will wind up having to take jobs they never imagined they’d be doing at this point in their careers. Recent college graduates will be doing jobs they are way over-qualified for.  And for many who can’t even land full-time jobs, temp work and free-lance jobs will become useful options for bringing home that all-important pay check.

Unfortunately, a lot of those people will find themselves feeling somewhat embarrassed by their circumstances; for many others, their egos will be deeply deeply hurt. “I’m MUCH better than this!” they’ll want everyone to know. “There’s so much more to me you can’t see.” Of course there’s more. And, as I can vouch from my own experience, there will be ample opportunities ahead to prove it! (By the way, I originally became a free-lance worker out of necessity, but I found it a wonderful way to earn a living and now it’s my preference.)

So to all of you who take jobs that feel beneath you, please know that opportunity exists wherever you wind up, whether you an see it or not at first. What you make of it is up to you. On that point, I just read a terrific article in The New Yorker about Sidney Weinberg, one of the most powerful investment bankers our country has ever known. The article is wonderfully titled:

The Uses of Adversity: Can underprivileged outsiders have an advantage?

Hint: The answer is yes. Weinberg worked his way up using ingenuity and street smarts to spot opportunity and make use of his natural talents, even though he came from a poor background and knew nothing about the world of high finance when he started. Each job was a chance for him. Each person he met a potential ally. He came from possibility and not from lack. Well worth a read!

And if you’d like to read some real-life stories from this humble blogger about how you can use a job at any level to work your way up, I’ve attached a link to a post written from my own personal experience:

20 Simple Tips to Help Move Your Career Ahead

The most important point is that, even if a job looks like it’s got little to offer you, you can still open yourself up to opportunity by giving it your all and staying alert. Respect the value of what you’re doing (this one takes a little practice 🙂 ) and of what you can learn by giving yourself fully to any task. This puts you in a place where you are poised to receive and take advantage of opportunities as they arise – either in your current job or later on.

ANY job may bring you in contact with opportunity in the form of new jobs, people, or knowledge for the future. It’s up to you to make something out of it – even in a tight economy. Who knows…some strange twist of fate that seems unfortunate at first, may get you to somewhere amazing down the road. Each job and task is a piece of a bigger puzzle. At least it’s always been that way for me.

Corny as it sounds, above all believe in yourself. No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, think about our new president and how he made the seemingly impossible come true.  Know in your heart there is always a way for you to find something better – especially if you keep your eyes and ears open and your contacts warm!

Good luck!

Ronnie Ann***


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. I always love stopping by for some encouragement. It really is getting rough out there, but sometimes that brings out the best in people.

  2. As I have no doubt it will in you, TEB. I’ve been through a few recessions and always wound up gaining an experience I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Even if it means we shift direction toward a path we never imagined, there’s a lot to be found on unimagined paths. And the cool thing is, on such a path we often have skills that are uniquely useful because so few others have them. The unimagined journey. Maybe it becomes the path not taken taken? 😉

    I wish you all the best – now and always!

    Ronnie Ann

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