Question: I’ve been looking for work for many months now. I left the Army last year, took some time to travel and visit family, and started my job search right before this global pandemic hit. I’m finding it really hard to find work in my desired career. Should I settle for something less now?

Answer: The global pandemic that hit in spring 2020 pivoted many people’s plans and company projections. Jobs that were almost fulfilled were suddenly halted, offers were rescinded and applicants went back to the starting line. Even as companies started to rehire, reorganize and build up their teams again, some jobs look different.

With employees (mostly) working remotely, companies are finding this new workstyle helpful in building up some teams and detrimental to the growth of others. What this means to the job applicant is that what was evident and interesting before, might look really different today.

A few things to consider as you evaluate your available options, including whether to find a job that fills the gap between where you are and where you want to end up (a “gap” job):

  • First, you’re never going to settle. Even using the word “settle” implies that you’re giving up, relinquishing control and optimism, and taking something that’s a disappointment. Refrain from seeing your future through this lens.

    Instead, consider that you might make short-term changes, or pursue intermediary opportunities to pass the time, earn some income or gain additional skills. While the job that affords you these opportunities may not be ideal in your opinion, or isn’t the dream job you envisioned as you left the military, you aren’t settling.

    You’re making a smart choice to put yourself first and to control what you can.

  • Next, consider where the market is today and where it’s headed. The pandemic affected nearly every sector of business, industry and nonprofit work. What companies and organizations are reconfiguring their offer or their business in a way that you could assist with? Which companies are thriving and hiring right now?

    By looking at where the opportunities are growing, you can try to align your skills and experience with what’s needed. It may not be your ideal company or industry, but you could find an opportunity to learn new skills, grow your professional network and advance your experience in the civilian sector by looking outside of your previous career path.

  • Finally, consider what kind of gap job to take, if that makes the most sense. If you have a clear idea of the ideal career you want, then contemplate what job you could take now that would give you skills, experiences, certifications or contacts to eventually get there.

    For example, if your ideal position is to work as a program manager in a large aerospace company (but they aren’t hiring now), consider a project manager role in a commercial enterprise that serves the defense industry. Or maybe a supply chain administrator job in a manufacturing company would enhance the skills you have now that could help you migrate over to aerospace when that sector starts hiring again.

    The idea is that you might have to go sideways to go ahead. Taking a gap job working in retail management, for instance, might be too far sideways to leverage the skills, experience and contacts you’ll need to later enter the aerospace field, but something in a related industry would make sense.

Gap jobs are not setbacks when chosen correctly. When the sector you’re pursuing improves, you’ll be able to create a solid narrative of why that position made sense to your career growth and overall career goals, making that gap job a valuable addition to your resume.

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