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Stepping Back, Marking Time or Marching Forward - The Choice is Yours

In my time in the recruiting and staffing industry, I’ve witnessed first hand numerous people who took an entry level position and made it a gateway to a life changing career opportunity.

One of the real joys of being in this industry is experiencing the satisfaction of knowing you just helped someone land a job who really needed it, someone whose family really needed it.

Certainly there are bad jobs out there.  But there is a big difference between a bad job and a tough or challenging job.  I would classify a bad job as one where your employer does not care about your safety or health, and the quality of the working conditions.  In a bad job ethics and legal compliance take a back seat or are ignored all together.   A bad job can exist in any industry or at any job level.  It can exist in a white collar or blue collar environment, it does not matter, it’s a bad job.  If you find yourself in a bad job, it’s best to leave as quickly as you can.

But don’t confuse a bad job with a tough or challenging job.  Here’s what I mean.  Working as a skilled carpenter on an OSHA regulated construction site for a reputable, well run construction firm, is tough work. You are exposed to the elements, on ladders, using power tools.  Physically, it’s more demanding than working at a computer or standing at a kiosk.   But that does not mean it is a bad job.  If you have the skills, love to use them, and your employer attends to your safety and well-being, it’s not a bad job!

One important thing to keep in mind, for some people their circumstances limit their job and career choices.  That is just a practical reality.  Transportation issues, physical limitations, or lack of experience are examples of circumstances that factor into the equation.  But once you are in a job, that is where your choices begin.  It is your choice to decide whether to make the most of this opportunity or not.  Like a marching band, do you keep marching forward, or do you mark time in place keeping the beat, or do you chaotically step back jeopardizing the entire ensemble of your career path?

Stepping Back….

To me taking a step back in your career has nothing to do with taking a lessor position than your last one, or less money, or less responsibility.  But instead it has everything to do with you choosing not to learn and gain anything from the position you are currently in.  Maybe your last job was with a big multinational brand, with all the sophistication that entails and your current job is with a small “mom and pop.”  Despite all the training your last company offered, the real world experiences you will gain from working with a small business owner on a daily basis are invaluable.  Take advantage of your situation to learn all that you can.  But instead, if your attitude is sour and your dismay for your current situation is obvious- no one gains, no one wins and you likely will not be there long whether you need the job or not.

Marking Time….

What is marking time?  Well, marking time is what a marching band or a military formation does when it is marching in place.  The goal is for everyone to be on the same step corresponding to the beat of the drum or the called cadence.  It’s organized, it’s disciplined and it’s efficient.   It also helps the musicians in the band to keep time as they play their individual instruments.  Wikipedia further defines it as a term that “can also be used to refer to doing a minor job or task while waiting for an opportunity to arise.”

That is the key point- if the job you are in is not the job to end all jobs, and it’s not a bad job (see above…), take full advantage while you are waiting for that next great opportunity to learn all you can in your current situation.  Some people often look at accepting or pursuing a temporary or contingent job as taking a step back.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Temporary and staffing jobs open a world of opportunity.  There is a good possibility you may be “marking time” for a little while.  But in today’s outsourced driven global economy, one of the best ways to march through the front door of your dream job is by coming in as a temporary.

Marching Forward!

When a band or military unit steps forward, your expectation as a spectator is for it to be done with precision and uniformity.  You expect them to exhibit that they’ve done this before.  The truth is they have. They were all beginners at some point and through hard work, effort and practice they have mastered the ability to march, maneuver, and play their instruments together.  So how do you get there in your career?  By taking full advantage of the job you are in today to learn what you can, improving your skills, and contributing on a daily basis.  Maybe the job you are in is a temporary job through a staffing service.  Even better!  You have a team of people there to support and coach you.  They are there to make sure this is a “good job” and not a “bad job” (see above again!).  Take full advantage of this opportunity.  If you do, you could be rewarded with a permanent position there, or you may be the first person called when that job you really want becomes available, all while staying productive and learning where you are (Marking Time!).   The choice is yours, the band is playing and on the march- why not join in and see where it takes you?

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