When The Job You Have Is Just A Job. And You Want A Career.


Following graduation, Whytney knew she wanted to find a job as a nonprofit communications specialist. She landed an internship at a small nonprofit organization, where both she and her employers were pleased with her work. The internship evolved into a job offer, which Whytney readily accepted. She was quickly disillusioned by her role as Special Projects Manager, however. The position required far more administrative responsibility than she had expected, leaving her feeling like a glorified administrative assistant.

As Whytney slogged through the new job’s tedium, her discontent turned darker and more philosophical. ‘Job’ and ‘career,’ she realized, are not synonymous. Her Special Projects Manager position was just a job, a temporary employment to fill time and pay the bills. What Whytney wanted was a career – a long-term, fulfilling life’s work. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to stay in the nonprofit sector. Hers was a quarter-life crisis of career fate, a panicky realization that she might be hurtling towards a professional endgame that could never be a permanent passion.

Seeing no corporate ladder to climb from her current position, Whytney has started to look for a new job (and, hopefully, career) in the private sector. She has not, however, applied to positions for fear of burning bridges with her current employer. Paralyzed in professional limbo, Whytney is unsure of her next move. How does one contend with a non-career job? Would leaving a post-grad position after just a few months look suspicious to potential employers? Is there a way to transition to a new field without burning bridges in the old one?

We asked Kristine E. LeBlanc, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, North American Consumer Practice of DHR International to weigh in on Whytney’s situation. As a provider of executive search solutions for 20+ years with more than 50 offices spanning the globe, Kristine intimately understands the intricacies of crafting a long-term career.

“If this is your first professional full-time role, then be very careful [about] how you approach you next move. So many new graduates would give their eyeteeth to have a full-time paid position right now, even if they feel a bit overqualified…And it’s harder right now than you might think to land a full-time job of any sort, so do not be too hasty to leave this company.”

Instead, Kristine advised Whytney to look for opportunities within her current organization.

“Ask how promotions are determined; ask how you can further contribute. Do not let it be known, however, that you feel overqualified for your current role, but rather make it obvious through your consistently outstanding work that you are, in fact, out-performing your current job requirements. Ask to take on additional duties that are in the area where you’d like to be working and knock the ball out of the court on those assignments.”

Annie Favreau also lent us some of the professional expertise she has acquired as Managing Editor at Inside Jobs, a website dedicated to simplifying the career search. Her suggestions include:

Just because the job isn’t headed in the direction you initially imagined, don’t close your mind off to the possibilities. Sometimes the best career lessons come out of left field. However, if the job isn’t helping you reach your over-arching career goals or allowing you to perform your best work, it might be time for a change.

The general rule is to stay at a job for at least a year, but there are certainly exceptions. If you’re looking at the clock at 9:15 on Monday morning and can’t imagine how you’re going to get through the week—it’s probably time to move on.

If you can’t move directly up the ladder, look beyond the obvious: Can you move horizontally within the company? Can you create your own position?

It’s also important to recognize when upward mobility isn’t your top priority. Especially if you’re beginning your career, staying at a job with uncertain growth prospects can still be extremely useful to your long-term goals. Are you learning transferable skills? Do you feel challenged? Are you able to do good work? If the answer is yes, consider staying put for a while.

Any job can provide a fantastic opportunity to learn about you yourself as a working woman. Discovering your genuine strengths, shortcomings, and interests (rather than what you think you’d be good at) is crucial to creating a fulfilling career path.

Do you have a career related dilemma that you could use some expert advice on?  Contact us to have your question responded to in an upcoming article!

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