Since the Great Recession, the attitude of hiring professionals regarding transitional employment has experienced a turnaround. From about 2008 through 2012, anyone who took a seasonal or “transitional” position was doomed to stay in that position for at least a year or two.

However, today is a different scene altogether. There are several reasons that accepting a transitional job can be a part of your job search success.

Two reasons long-term unemployment works against you:

The task of going to work on a daily basis is more important to people than they may realize. It may have felt like “the grind” however, many jobseekers quickly appreciate how much of their personal identity is defined by their job. Consequently, not going to work takes a major toll on one’s self-esteem.

Furthermore, the very act of managing a work schedule in addition to home-life takes a lot of energy. Generally, people get into a groove and don’t realize how much effort is involved in a “normal” schedule. I call this key aspect being “work ready.”

Business uncertainty

Hiring professionals know that once a jobseeker has been out of work for more than a few months, his or her ability to handle the rigor and stress of juggling a job, home, and life begins to diminish. This is another reason that people who are currently employed are preferred over long-term jobseekers.

Here are some articles to help you if you have been out of work for longer than four months:

Why jobseekers avoid “transitional” jobs:

Two of the most obvious effects of taking a transitional job include:

  1. Living on a significantly reduced budget and,
  2. Leaving one’s career track. Since “job-hopping” looks bad on a résumé, many jobseekers felt that they had to stay at a position for at least two years.

It’s a critical factor to note that between 2008 and 2012, unemployment compensation was significantly longer than it is now. At that time, some people received two years of benefits. So jobseekers could “afford” to wait for a position in their area of expertise.

Why there’s so many long-term unemployed:

Technology is changing many industries at their core. These changes include new business models, new approaches to marketing and sales through social media, global expansion that removes certain job openings to locations outside the U.S.—to name a few.

Consequently, jobseekers need time to assess their industry as well as their career. Many people are having to change industries as their positions no longer exist.

Here is a partial list of what it takes to change industries and/or career tracks:

  • Identify transferrable skills
  • Pinpoint a new target industry
  • Identify specific positions that the jobseeker is qualified for
  • (Oftentimes, training and re-skilling may be involved)
  • Create a résumé that hiring entities will find credible
  • Most importantly—jobseekers have to completely rework how they think and talk about themselves.

These tasks simply can’t be done within a three to four month timeframe. Consequently, countless jobseekers become long-term unemployed.

Why a transitional job has become an asset:

Today, a lot has changed. We now know the hard truth about long-term unemployment with regard to self-esteem and work-readiness. This means that transitional employment is now viewed as an asset.

When a long-term jobseeker takes on a transitional job, it says something about his or her character—as long as they can manage the psychological and emotional impact in a positive and productive manner.

Six reasons to consider seasonal or “transitional” employment:

  1. From the potential employers perspective the benefit of a transitional job is that it demonstrates that the jobseeker is “work-ready”— s/he is ready to take on the rigor of a full-time position. That person has been juggling a job, a job search, as well as their home-life. So any regular job (full time or part-time with a consistent schedule) will be seen as an asset.
  2. A job, as long as it is honorable work, restores dignity—provided the jobseeker manages his or her attitude to avoid resentment and bitterness.
  3. It brings in a bit of income.
  4. It may open up opportunities to network to a better position.
  5. It may provide a current recommendation or reference.
  6. Being in a workplace, with responsibility, around other people provides a place to help others.

Examples of transitional work:

Here are a few options that some of my clients accepted:

  • A former Vice President accepted a position painting, carpentry and landscaping (in addition to freelance consulting) for various pay.
  • A former HR Assistant accepted a position as a Customer Care Associate at the Deli in a supermarket: $12.50 per hour.
  • A former Project Manager accepted a position as a part-time technology consultant for an uncle: $19 per hour.
  • A former chef retrained in IT and accepted a position short-term tech projects through a consulting agency: $15 per hour.
  • Former Compliance Officer accepted a position as a checkout attendant at a grocery store, night shift: $8.50 per hour.
  • A former program manager at a university accepted a position loading trucks for Fed Ex: $12 per hour.
  • A former COO accepted a position managing operations on a farm: $20 per hour.
  • A former Administrative assistant accepted a position as a waitress: $3 per hour plus tips.
  • A former multi-state car loan officer accepted a position as a car salesman: Commission only.
  • A former International Fashion Trader accepted a position managing a website and processing credit card transactions for a restaurant: $10 per hour.
  • A former documentary film director accepted a position harvesting food on a farm that served quality, organic vegetables to low-income people who couldn’t afford to eat: volunteer—no pay.


The Challenge

Long-term jobseekers will likely agree that managing their “mental traffic” is the most difficult challenge of the jobsearch. This blog brings up an excess of mental challenges.

Here is a partial list:

  • Taking on a “lesser” job can be degrading and humiliating.
  • Working for pennies on the dollar of a former salary is exasperating, knowing that you have so much value. It can feel demeaning.
  • Talking to people at the new job can be difficult.
  • Talking to your friends and family can be embarrassing,
  • It’s exhausting to try to manage it all.

…but it doesn’t have to.

Choose your attitude:

  1. If you have children (any age), it is likely that they too will experience adversity in their life. Are you willing to set the example they will need when their turn comes?
  2. If taking a transitional or seasonal job will give you an edge to get back to your career, would you do it?
  3. Are you willing to insist that you view a seasonal or transitional job as having responsibility, building trust with co-workers—and that is valuable?
  4. Are you willing to set an example to your family, children (nieces or nephews), spouse and friends, that honorable work brings dignity—and do the job to set the standard of excellence…even if you are slicing ham, raking leaves, or washing cars?

If so….then take your place as a champion.
That attitude will come across in your cover letters,
résumés, and interviews.

Never Give Up Indicates Motivating Motivate And Determination

I do not mean to undermine the difficulty of what I have written here. It takes sacrifice and fierce determination to choose this path. It isn’t like winning a game or even a race. This is the hard stuff—a mental marathon. You’ve been wronged. You did not create this situation. Nonetheless, choose the high road.

Tips for your cover letter, résumé, and interview

  • On your cover letter or résumé, indicate that the position is a transitional or seasonal position while you are working to get back into your career path.

    This should be part of your LinkedIn profile as well.
  • Interview Question: “What have you been doing since you were laid off?”
  • Answer: “It is important to me to maintain the rigor of working full-time. I took a transitional position to stay in the habit of going to work, managing my schedule, my personal life, and I added my job search as a second full-time part of my daily schedule.

    “It was also important to me to set an example for my (spouse, son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, neighbors…) on how to manage adversity in a positive, productive manner and maintain my dignity, self-esteem, and sharpen my ability to deliver value and build trust.”

* * *

In my mind, a successful job search is when a person makes it through to the end without regrets with regard to their time, financial decisions, and with their relationships intact.

Bright Hope of Life

Without exception, those people who have not given up and have continued to learn about the process and stay focused have ALL found jobs. Again, there have been no exceptions.

If you are struggling with your job search, then contact me for a 30 minute assessment at no charge.

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4 thoughts on “How Transitional Work Can Boost Your Job Search Success

  1. Marcia,

    You are always right on point but it seems like you just got a new crystal ball or really have your finger on lots of pulses or something, WOW!. I heard from a career counselor just last week, there are some and maybe many employers out there now who will only consider candidates as new hires who are currently employed. How sad is that, but it’s a reality. All the more your message resonates with us all Marcia. Job searching and finding a “transitional” job in the same year looks much better on the resume than when the search spans into the next year. I love to work and always have — no matter what I did from the age of 15 (picking tobacco here in CT); you’re right, it is all about your attitude and getting the opportunity to do an honest days work and being around other people at work My job search mindset has been evolving and you have now confirmed the direction. Thanks for all you do Marcia.

    1. Chuck,
      You are a godsend and I appreciate your taking time to give me feedback. Your comments help me ensure that I am relevant and timely. It’s changing so quickly! You and people like you, who stay connected and take time to give feedback, and uplift others help everyone. Again, Chuck, I am grateful for you and hope only the best for your future.

  2. Marcia,
    Your article is so on point. I have experienced all the things listed in your article about the long-term effects that is associated with individuals that find themselves in long-term unemployment. I worked the seasonal and temporary assignments and now I am gainfully employed after five years. Some of the challenges that I faced during my long-term unemployment were, “they cannot understand why someone with my educational training, experience and skills can’t find a job”. It got to the point where I stopped talking or taking my friend and family phone calls. So what I would say to anyone who is currently unemployed do not give up, keep looking and your turn will come to be gainfully employed.

    1. Beatrice…your posting makes me shudder. You have been through so much. Your job search has been one of the most challenging that I have seen. You have demonstrated courage and determination and have proven that you are A true winner. Your recommendation to those who are currently unemployed is offered from your difficult experience during this Great Recession. They say that Challenge builds character. If that is the case, then you have certainly some of the finest character in the world. I don’t write this lightly. You have been through excruciating circumstances. I hope that future employers Will understand your value and reciprocate you accordingly. Thank you for commenting.

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