Working as a Waitress While Finding The Right Job – Why Not?

“I am not really a waitress, I am just waiting to get hired for the right job”.
This is something you will frequently hear if you don’t like to work in restaurant but don’t know how to say it in more polite way. The reality is that many of us will find at some point in our lives periods of career lull. For millennial in particular, and especially after the giant recession and for professionals in emerging markets, finding a career job and one that fits your passion for good and that pays the bills is HARD to obtain.
More and more jobs are short term; a lot of jobs don’t include health insurance, retirement or any types of long term benefits. Whether you cannot land a job, you just got back from working overseas, you quit your job after an impulsive burst and find yourself unemployed, you had a baby and haven’t worked in a while…. Whatever your particular context, the most important thing is how you get back to the workforce immediately.

Is my “in-between kind of job” a death sentence to my career?
You are panicking because you have to work as a waitress, or as a barista in a cafe serving coffee and you think NO ONE will ever hire you or take you seriously in your social change career. You are wrong! Of course coffee-making skills may not be directly link to project management (except if you can make the best espresso for your stressed-to-be new boss). However, what skills can you acquire while doing the “in-between kind of job”?
Let say you are in charge of kitchen staffs or you were given a chance to manage the daily financials. You can always explore ways of framing the skills you are using in this “job” that you can use for your advantage.
What you do is NOT who you are. Serving meals or coffee (unless it is your life calling) is NOT going to define you. Separate those two and while you are doing a job that pays the bills, find time to volunteer in an areas you love so that you put your social change skills to work even if you are NOT getting remuneration via this volunteering you are still working in social change.

What can do to help/boost my career while serving coffee?
Volunteer in an area you are passionate about or the sector you want a job into. I doubt anyone will reject you for donating your time. In return, you keep close to your field, keep networking and sharpening your skills for when you land that next big thing.
Blog . You keep yourself busy, learning and doing research about your topic, sharing knowledge and establishing yourself as a thought leader in the sector.
Connect. Virtually with networks, or attend in-person events in topics or areas you need to learn, you are passionate about or areas where you need to learn more.
Self-care. Don’t obsess, don’t let your lack of job or job search consume every minute. Take perspective. Take a hike. Breathe.

How long is too long before (staying without a job) hurts your career?
No one really says it, but everyone whispers it LOUDLY: as little as possible. Hopefully you will land job after job and never have a gap. Women are terrified after having babies for fear of not being employable again. In many countries being past 30 is considered too old for the hiring market. JUST SO WE ARE CLEAR, THIS IS ALL BS. I don’t subscribe to that theory.

Why am I not landing the job?
Have you followed every step suggested, sent over 60 – 100 applications per month (yes, that’s how many) and still not get past the interview stage?
Check what skills you are probably missing and even ask organizations (and peers) that you love to give you feedback. Identify the missing skills and take advantage of your transition time to get that class, do an online MOOC, and sharpen your skills. Keep trying.

What if this is a symptom of something else?
Lastly. See your “transition time” as an advantage not a liability, as a space for deep reflection and maybe you NOT getting a job is a sign that you are ready to leap into a different field. That you are burn-out. It’s ok. I spent over two decades solely focused on social change (from political science, development, gender and conflict resolution). I know have other interests that I am going to pursue and get training to launch my third career. I’m interested in healthy eating, holistic nutrition and fitness. Yes. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to project what you love to do and there is no better time that when you are “not doing your job”.

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