Monday, February 23, 2009

Help Your Career By Stepping Onto a Sinking Ship

Who, in their right mind, would jump onto the Titanic instead of off?

In this tough job market, maybe it should be you.

This may not make any sense at first blush, but when you consider the payoff, you may just decide it's a risk worth taking.

Let's say that you're looking for work, or you believe that your job may be in trouble. Why would you take a job with a company that looks to be on shaky ground?

The most obvious reason is that it will give you an opportunity you might not otherwise have. For example, you're re-entering the job market after taking years off to raise your kids. Or, perhaps your age is preventing you from getting a job in many companies -- you're either too young or too old or too inexperienced or perhaps even too desperate. But a company that is equally desperate -- all their top-notch talent has already left the building -- may be just the place willing to take a chance on you.

So, even if the job doesn't last very long, it gives you exactly what you need: Experience.

Let's consider another reason to jump onto a sinking ship: The address would look good on the resume. Maybe you've had second- or third-tier jobs up until now. No impressive titles or big names to rock the world of a recruiter looking through thousands of resumes. But now an opportunity comes along to either grab that fancy title or the prestige of the company name. With those under your belt, a whole new world of opportunities may be opened to you.

Of course, one of the best reasons to jump into a leaky boat is because you're probably going to work like a dog. Everything and anything is going to be thrown your way, the rulebook will probably be burned and you may notice the captain heading for the exit. Good. Now is the time when you're going to learn the most, when it's going to take all your smarts and daring and ingenuity just to keep your head above water. You're going to work like a dog, and your time will be measured the same way -- one year at that job will be like seven years somewhere else. But every one of those things you learn will be valuable in one way or another. You'll be able to tell other employers what you learned and how that can be put to work for them. That's the stuff that makes any resume sing and a hiring manager sit up and take notice.

Finally, bosses that are still on a sinking ship are much more likely to let you spread your wings. They're going to let you cut in line, they're going to listen to more of your ideas and make you a key part of any process. Why? Because they know that you're fighting to save your ass -- and you could save theirs in the process.

What are some other considerations for anyone contemplating taking a job with a company that may be on shaky ground?

Lijit Search


Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. Some of the same advice works for volunteering for understaffed nonprofits who can give you quick experience, references in all kinds of new areas.
Want leadership experience--volunteer for nonprofit boards and carry the load where no one else wants to. You'll be elected or appointed to leadership spots. Yeh, it's not getting you money and solving that problem in the short run, but it will have medium term and long term benefits for work. Good for networking too.

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea, Anita!

I'd say one thing to consider before stepping onto a sinking ship is the REASON it's sinking. You might not have wanted to jump aboard Enron as it was going down, for example. Even if you were only there a short time, "Guilt by association" may land your resume in the reject pile.

But if your research convinces you that the rewards will probably outweigh the risks, this could be an excellent strategy.

Anita said...

Great suggestions! Nonprofits have been hit really hard as many of their members face professional and personal problems -- stepping into that gap could offer you a great chance to come into contact with community and industry leaders. As you said, a great networking opportunity.

Anita said...

Very true...although I don't think anyone saw Enron coming until it hit the iceberg and sank within hours!
But you're absolutely right. You need to make sure that you're willing to work hard for a company that can offer you something in return -- skills, opportunity, exposure to great minds and talent.Thanks for adding.

Working Girl said...

I like your take on this, Anita. It's original, and sassy, and a smart way for people to take control of their careers instead of feeling so much the other way around.

I do think that in a poor economy it can be a good move for jobhunters to take even less than ideal jobs. After all, that old "if you have a job it's easier to find a job" thing remains true. . . .

Anita said...

Working Girl,
I think in this economy you've got to put everything on the table and really re-visit what you will and won't do. More than half a million other job seekers will change your mind on a lot of things, I think.
Thanks for adding your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Great advice! In fact, I've witnessed how this strategy worked really well for someone I knew.

I had a friend who worked for a company that had 50% attrition. The company stock was taking a serious hit. Instead of jumping ship, he stayed and focused on making a difference.

In two years, he rose from a senior technical support engineer to CTO of the company -- and this was a 600-employee, publicly traded enterprise software company.

Like Warren Buffet said, be greedy when everyone else is panic. Be the big fish in a sinking ship could be a great career strategy if you pick the right sinking ship and prove that you could add a lot of value to save the ship from sinking further.


Anita said...

Thanks for sharing that story!