Monday, December 1, 2008

Is Any Job Beneath You?

I think there's probably nothing more demoralizing than looking for work and being unable to find a job.

Because let's be honest: Despite all the pep talks you give yourself, it's miserable to send out resumes and not hear anything back, or land an interview and then never get an offer. You try to stay upbeat, but day after day of not finding work is tough. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying or living on vodka.

Still, there may be one thing that makes you feel worse than not getting a job -- getting an offer that is beneath you. Wait. Let me amend that: There's nothing worse than getting a job you believe is beneath you.

Why? Because the minute you believe a job is not good enough for you, the minute you sell yourself against the idea that a job won't make good use of your time and talents, then you've set yourself up to be miserable. More miserable, in fact, than not getting a job at all.

The people who feel this way need to spend about an hour with Paul Facella, and they'll soon change their minds about how demoralizing it is to accept a "lesser" job.

Facella is a top management guru who used to be an executive at McDonald's after rising through the ranks from his position at age 16 manning the grill. He's got a new book, Everything I Know About Business I Learned at McDonald's" and I spent some time talking to him about how tough it is to find a job these days. He says that in this economy, you gotta do what you gotta do.

That means you put your ego aside, and take whatever job you can get. Oh, yeah -- and check the attitude at the door.

"Look at it as an opportunity with a big ‘o’”, he says.

Facella notes that anytime you take a job that knocks you down the ranks, you should look at it as a chance correct sloppy habits and improve others. In fact, it's sort of like an on-the-job business school as you "can see how management operates and what works – and what doesn’t. It will help you get ready for your next job by observing both the good and the bad.”

At the same time, Facella notes that any job where you have direct contact with the public will hone your skills faster than any formal training and probably give you a great deal of satisfaction at the same time. "Nothing teaches you quicker than getting feedback and recognition from the public," he says. "And, people in lower level jobs are often very social and close-knit. They have a lot of fun together."

Facella also advocates taking a lesser job because chances are very good you'll quickly move up the ranks, and be better for taking that path.

"There's a certain power you have as a manager when you know the job. When you talk to employees, and they know that you understand what they do every day, then the trust and leadership factor for you as a manager goes way up," he says.

Facella also notes that those who work in the trenches together often form lasting bonds that can pay off big dividends in the future. He says many of those he worked with at McDonald's now are top executives at other companies.

"You learn a lot about collaboration and cooperation when you depend on one another. Teamwork becomes very important, and you learn to create opportunities for yourself," he says. "You make a decision to be the best at whatever you're doing."

Do you think there are advantages to accepting a job at a lower level or pay?


Robert Hruzek said...

This is a great thing to remind folks of, believe me! During my worst unemployment period ever (4 years!) I found myself doing all kinds of odd jobs, just to keep the cash flow goin'.

For instance, I spent several months vacuuming floors at my church. Didn't pay much, but they let me go on job interviews whenever one came up.

And I spent about three months placing those little American Express stickers you see at the cash registers or on windows at various small retail stores around the Houston area. It was great money if you stayed on the ball, plus, I got to set my own goals and hours.

Any way you slice it, doin' things outside your normal experience is a good thing. Not to mention - successfully bringing home the bacon, even in tough times, is rewarding in itself.

There's still some jobs I wouldn't do, though. And, even if you try, some ideas just won't work. I never could make that dog-polishing business idea fly. *sigh*

Anita said...

In the past, some of the conventional wisdom has been that you don't want to "step down" the ladder because it looks bad on a resume. When I asked Facella about that, he said he no longer believes it to be true. In fact, the people who do what they gotta do will be lauded for their efforts to keep working hard, no matter what. You deserve a lot of credit for your hard work, although I'm sure some dogs are happy you gave up the "polishing" idea.

Anonymous said...

Ian has left a new comment on your post "Is Any Job Beneath You?":

Funny, I kind of just did this a few weeks ago. Switching from a IT coordinator role to a IT/business tester role for a long juicy poject.

Here are some questions I ask myself:
- What can I learn from this?
- Am I expanding my horizon? (Getting out of my comfort zone?)
- Will I be challenged or bored?
- Will the team/company & I culturally fit?

A lot of times previous expertise allows people to leap (in projects) once they settled down & learn the business.

If it doesn't work out ... it will be a good story to tell a year from now.

Anita said...

I apologize for the "anonymous" tag. The comment didn't want to post for some reason, so I just copied and pasted your comment.
You make some really good suggestions, and I hope everyone thinks not in terms of a job title, but rather how they can learn and grow from a job.
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I can imagine taking a job that was maybe a step down if it offered me a chance to learn new skills that I could leverage into a better position at a later date. As long as the finances worked out OK, I think the opportunity to build your skill set is a valuable one.

Anita said...

I can see doing that also. But I think with the way things are going, the decision is going to be tougher than that for a lot of people -- they may have to accept less money for a job that doesn't offer them a lot of challenges. It would be a tough call.
Thanks for adding your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anita -

Good post. I know many individuals who are willing to take a lower level position, however one of the biggest difficulties they come across is selling the employer on the idea. In other words, they run up against 'you're over qualified for the position and won't be happy for long'.

The 'over qualified' reasoning can also often be the reason that a candidate may not hear anything back after submitting their resume.

I think it is very important for candidates to keep in mind that they will need to 'target' their resume towards the employer's needs and target their interview responses as well. And be ready for the inevitable question: Why would you be interested in this position when your background and experience reach far beyond what we are offering? The answer needs to be more than "I just need to pay my bills".

Robin Ogden

Anita said...

Thank you for making a very good point. You need to make sure the employer understands that you're not focused on a "title" but rather on using skills and abilities that you enjoy putting to work such as teamwork, giving great customer service, etc.,

Anonymous said...

.... Ive heard of bs before but god damn. So your saying that if i have credentials as a machinist. I get laid off because of the downsizing economy.. i should be happy that i can get a job fixing toasters or something? Its demeaning. Knowing that i can do so much more and that my mind is becoming numb bs small time jobs is demoralizing beyond belief. Id sooner stay on the unemployment payroll and use my spare time looking for more lucrative jobs or enhancing a skill that i already have or maybe learning a new one altogether.

Though i have to so say I commend the people that do work at fast food and other customer service jobs. I cant do that type of work anymore. To me, its mind numbing as well, not to mention i cannot stand the general public.

Those people are under appreciated, VERY under paid, and mistreated by the public and their managers. Weekends off are unheard of in that business. Id honestly go buy food from a place that is closed on the weekend just to know that those people get a day off. I know others are desperate for hours and such. But i think that in itself means they should try looking for another place to pull in cash.

Not at the same time of course. It shames me to know that people who work full time minimum wage or just above have to find another job just to take the edge off because the current job pays nothing and will probably refuse to pay anything higher.

Anita said...

Dear Sharpshooter,
The point of this post is to point out that sometimes people limit their job searches because they're too focused on job titles, which may be a poor strategy in this bad economy.
I would never tell anyone that they have to accept a job -- that is totally up to an individual.
Still, I think it's unfair to say these kinds of jobs are always miserable and treat the people badly. I just spoke with a man who was a small business owner and when his company went under, he took a job at Lowe's. He told me he's never been happier, and loves his job and helping people.
I hope you find what you're looking for. Thanks for adding to the discussion.