Society’s expectations are kind of misaligned.
There are millions of people who have been laid off in the last few weeks. The job market they’re entering is even more uncertain than the one I faced when I was let go in the middle of 2016, with far fewer options available. If they had retail/service industry jobs, there aren’t available positions because it’s those very companies that have laid off or furloughed workers. If they had other positions, not only are similar companies not hiring but they also don’t have the option of taking a part-time retail job to try and make ends meet.
In more normal times, those who find themselves out of work are sent a message from various sources: Do what you need to both for the sake of yourself/your family and because working *anywhere* is preferable to having a gap on your resume.
It’s not bad advice, especially for those like me who have lost “white collar” jobs. Taking a “blue collar” job might not be ideal, but it keeps some money coming in, keeps you active and out of the house and more. No doubt it can be difficult, both physically and emotionally, to adjust to a drastically different work environment, learn new skills and so on. But, as I found over the three years I’ve been working at Starbucks, it can also be incredibly eye-opening and even rewarding.
A problem emerges when that advice stands in contrast to what you’re told is preferable from a job hunting perspective.
That’s the situation I found myself in several months ago when I received an email from a recruiter asking me about a position she thought I might be a fit for. I responded saying “Yeah, sounds interesting, let’s talk more about this.”
At that point she made an unexpected request: That I remove from LinkedIn my time at Starbucks. Having it there, she said, sent the wrong message and would hurt my chances of getting this job.
I considered it. The request wasn’t difficult. I just needed to click a couple buttons and done, my path might be cleared. Then I started thinking about what that job entry represents.
That I did what I needed to do to continue supporting my family.
That I was willing to leave my comfort zone and let go of my pride.
That I was a self-starter who took action instead of falling into depression.
That I was flexible in my thinking and could adjust to new situations and realities.
That I had gained significant customer support experience that was applicable just about anywhere.
That I had gained valuable leadership skills that were applicable just about anywhere.
That I had worked with younger people and learned a lot from them.
That I could think on my feet and make spur-of-the-moment decisions in high-pressure circumstances.
That I had gained valuable management experience that was applicable just about anywhere.
Why, I asked myself, would I want to erase all of that? Was it really better to give the appearance of having done nothing for those years and months than to show I had embraced reality and moved forward?
With such huge numbers of people about to reenter the job market – not to mention those who are dropping out for various reasons – we all need to consider just where our priorities lie and what attributes will be seen as attractive when considering someone for an open position.
Someone who makes the hard decision that underemployed but still working is better than unemployed completely is someone worth seriously evaluating. They shouldn’t be made to feel as if the experience they gained or the reality of their situation is shameful and must be hidden from public view lest they be judged and found wanting.
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” we’re told, frequently by people who are in charge of handing out what they claim is a limited quantity of bootstraps and who will look down on anyone who does so.
Anyone and everyone who is able to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and continue to function despite setbacks should be praised and valued, not viewed as tainted by their experiences.