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Should I Take a Survival Job?

Updated on May 17, 2013
Doing what it takes to survive.
Doing what it takes to survive. | Source

Survival Jobs - Eat Now or Later?

We all know that we have to work to survive. In this economy however many of us are finding that not only do we have to work - but we have to work at jobs we didn't expect to - jobs that I refer to as "survival jobs".

Now in essence we could probably call just about any job a "survival job", since wages from our work contribute to our survival (in most cases anyway - unless you work because you just plain ole enjoy it or have massive amounts of wealth stashed somewhere)

What I am talking about here is taking on a job you would normally never consider taking - one that pays less money, has less prestige, is much different than the job you would normally be at , you are over-qualified for, offers less benefits or demands you work hours you hate or would never usually agree to. Yes, a job that you take just to survive.

I'm So Over Qualified....Or Am I?

My partner and I closed our business about a year and half ago, just as the economy started really going south. I soon found myself back in the unenviable place of being back in the job market after 14 years of being self-employed. Now before any of you think well gee she had her own business for 14 years, that must have been swell....well let me tell you that being a small business owner is probably one of the hardest jobs anyone could ever take on. As a small business owner you are not only the book keeper - but the janitor - and the customer service rep - all in one fell swoop. Not that I would change those 14 years for anything - because I did learn alot - but it really set me up for a huge reality check when I was suddenly thrown back into the job market. Not only thrown into finding a job but making a resume and hitting the pavement along with 15 zillion other job seekers, in an awful upside-down economy.

This is where the humble pie came in....after searching high and low for several months for that "perfect" and "right" job for little qualified me, I began to realize there were alot of other qualified "me's" running around looking for that same job I was. Not only were they qualified but even more qualified in many cases, which began to scare the peejeebies out of me. I started to question my self-worth. I mean after all wasn't I a highly qualified designer, former business owner who should have her pick of jobs?


Time to take my ego hat off and get down to business. Time to really eat some humble pie with a good dose of reality tossed in!

A Little "Humble Pie" Never Hurt Anyone...

So now that you have a little idea of my pre-job ego, let me tell you how taking a "survival job" came down for me - and maybe give you some tips on what to avoid and what to do to help you land that survival job... For me I soon came to realize that having a job in this economy was nothing to be taken lightly. My mantra now to anyone who has a job is "keep it and be happy you even have a job right now!". I have seen many friends and family fighting just to keep their heads above water, including me. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area has not helped - our area has been very hard hit - losing a third of the equity in my home was a big blow, closing a business after 14 years was a blow.....I could go on and on with own woes but there are many many people in the same boat as me if not worse! So I finally came to the conclusion that ANY job was better than none, even if that included working at some fast food joint... So I started looking for a "survival job", any job that would help pay the bills, put shoes on my feet and food on the table (only of course until my writing career ramps up ... dang I just hate that "starving artist" crud in between though!!!)

Some Tips for Landing a Survival Job

So a year and a half later, I am not only happy to report that I have a job but I actually have 2! Even though both of them are far less money than I would normally work for, both jobs are using some of my best skill sets - art, sales and photography - which have been a blessing.


1. Check your ego in at the door. This is no time for ego. Food on the table or pride - which do do you prefer? (last time I checked pride didn't have much sustenance or flavor to it)

2. Don't be afraid to let people know, anyone in fact, that you are looking for a job. Referrals can be the best source of job leads! (My latest job was a direct result of someone close to me knowing an employer that needed one of my skill sets. It was a perfect match!)

3. If you have been in business like me, or have lots of business contacts, get connected again. Let them know you are looking for a job, position, whatever you choose to call it. Join professional networks like LinkedIn on the Internet.

4. Go into job hunting realizing that there are alot of other people vying for the same position. Perhaps this will help you think twice about your expectations.

5. Try job hunting on Craigslist. I got 2 of my recent jobs this way, both decent jobs. Like I said, not what I would normally be doing but there are lots of job categories on Craigslist to choose from!

6. Prepare a nice but not too preppy resume. Be real in your expectations. In my latest resume I was rather blunt but honestly nice, and one of employers said it was my resume that hooked her. It pays to be real!

7. Keep in mind that this position will probably only be a stepping stone to something else. I know that I will probably not be doing what I'm doing 5 years from now but that's OK. It is an ends to a means, ya know? So don't get discouraged!

8. Adjust your living habits to your survival job. I mean come on, there are really some things that we can let go of, and there are some things we can't like basic utilities, food , mortgage rent, medical, life stuff, ya know? Maybe it's time to stop drinking Starbucks (gasp) or do our own nails (gasp gasp)

9. When you get your survival job, leave time to still look for other opportunities. Don't give up looking on Craigslist, Monster, Hot Jobs or whatever agencies you use to job hunt.

10. Don't be afraid of working part-time. I actually ended up with 2 part-time jobs and one even has full benefits. It's also kind of nice to break up the monotony with 2 places of employment!

Most of all, don't give up and don't get discouraged. We have seen tough economic times before and we rose to the occasion. Sure it's not easy but this is the time to encourage one another, find creative and legitimate ways to make an income, support one anothers efforts and think about becoming more self sufficient. Survival jobs are one of the ways to do this, and with a questionable economic recovery at hand, one that many of us should be seriously looking at.

Good luck in your job hunting endeavors!

(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer/publisher on the internet, a former small business owner and author on various topics including the Bailout Bill and other political hot potatoes)

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  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    8 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    traderx) YW!

  • traderx profile image


    8 years ago from Las Vegas

    thanks for your time writing this hub

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    9 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Thanks everyone for stopping by and reading about survival jobs. Times are difficult right now and many people are having to work at jobs they would normally not be at. If you are in this position, just remember to keep looking for that special job that's waiting out there for you! I believe that survival jobs can still teach us many things, being humble one of them!

  • Chris Eddy111 profile image

    Chris Eddy111 

    9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

    Finding a job at any time especially when you've been out of the job market for a long while is tough. That's where I find myself. Still, I refuse to give up. Thank you for this hub.

  • ethel smith profile image

    Ethel Smith 

    9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

    If you have to take a couple of part time jobs in the Uk to survive make sure that you pay voluntary national insurance conributions. If each job only has so many hours of work your empolyers will not be paying a stamp for you.

    When prospective employers tell you that you are overqualified tell them your are overqualified for unemployment.

    Your Hub is very pertinent

  • MJ Dakota profile image

    MJ Dakota 

    9 years ago from San Diego, California

    Right by your side. Have been helping my boyfriend start and running his business for the last 7 years, but my pay is nothing. Now I find myself willing to take on a $10/hr job just to have money of my own for MY bills that he will not pay. Careful who you choose to help and survival job hunt here I am!!

  • NateSean profile image


    9 years ago from Salem, MA

    Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt at a thrift shop where I also bought the black pants I needed for my current job at just 2.50 a pair.

    I worked at the airport in Burlington, Vermont cleaning US Airways planes. During the winter I could be at the airport from five in the evening until three in the morning waiting for the final plane to arrive and I'd have to be at my job at Brooks Pharmacy by eight am.

    Here's to jobs that pay the rent: *holds up a glass of cheap imported wine*

    Oh and don't turn your nose at thrift shops and tag sales. Some of my most precious posessions cost chump change at tag sales and thrift shops and they didn't take a penny out of my tight budget.

  • KeithTax profile image

    Keith Schroeder 

    9 years ago from Wisconsin

    I like your article. A subtle reminder in these trying economic times. An honest job is still a job. Pride comes from a good day's work. And better jobs from momentum at a current job.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I am European (living in Spain) which is in desperate economic trouble (19% unemployment as per the government and probably more like 25% in reality). How is the US? Are you guys still suffering - or should us Europeans believe the US 'out of the recession' news? Is this PR or the truth? What is happening at the 'coal face'?

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Pharaoh gave orders to all his people, saying, Every son who comes to birth is to be put into the river, but every daughter may go on living.

  • bearclawmedia profile image


    9 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

    Caveat Emptor, my California counterpart. Watch those MLM scammers they are brutal. Yes lower your standards for a little while. It might give you some insight. This is not a forever situation, you got game, don't doubt yourself. You seen it all already. I took some crap jobs of late. Finished em and move on. May the creator shine on you and your angels bring you solutions.

  • Jjustice profile image


    9 years ago

    I'm afraid that a lot of people will need to look for survival jobs in the coming year. I'm just not convinced that the economy is recovering as some on the tv would have me believe. Good advice as people need to know to take what you can get when looking for employment. It's easier to look while working than looking while unemployed. (easier on your stress levels!)

  • Madison22 profile image


    9 years ago from NYC

    Excellent tips, I had to take many survival jobs in my life time and I am very grateful for all of them. Like you said food on the table or pride? I choose food especially as a mom no time for ego there. Thanks for sharing a wonderful hub!

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 

    9 years ago from East Coast, United States

    I am sorry to hear that you have lost the best boss in the world - yourself (of course for some people that may be the worst boss). You've made great suggestions for everyone, thanks to your own experience.

    It's terrible that the economy has hurt so many working people. And it's tough for Baby Boomers to compete with younger job seekers. Business now can be so choosy when hiring new people. The 'be glad you have a job' mentality frankly stinks for working folks. While some people can cut back on certain expenses while they work for less, many people are having an awful time just trying to make ends meet.

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    9 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    (ocbill) I too know many people working for much much less. One fellow I know who had a high profile job is working for a 10th of what he would normally make. He says however that his new position is making him very very happy.Proves money isn't everything!

    (dusanotes) no worries. I think we need to experience things ourselves in order to help others. Glad you rebounded!

    (Jerilee) Craigslist is a great resource. Glad to find that it's brigning you in some income too.

    (hello,hello) your welcome. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

    (Nancy) thanks. That compliment means alot coming from you. I've always valued and respected your opinion.

  • profile image

    Nancy's Niche 

    9 years ago

    Well written, and straight to the point! Egos are truly a handicap on a resume, interview and job. I think the “over qualified” excuse is a way to get around the age issue. Your tips are the most appropriate and professionally designed tips I have read so far…

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    9 years ago from London, UK

    A well written and down-to-earth with great help to get on with life. Thank you.

  • Jerilee Wei profile image

    Jerilee Wei 

    9 years ago from United States

    Perfect advice Dorsi! I especially agree with the one on Craigslist as I often pick up freelance work as a writer there. Right now I have 2, one with the state of Florida, so while you do have to be choosy and alert to scams on Craigslist -- real business entities are also using them to seek employees.

  • dusanotes profile image


    9 years ago from Windermere, FL

    Dorsi, what an incredibly useful Hub. Thanks for doing it. I was about to say, thanks for researching it, but that would be a slap in the face. You didn't intentionally research the job market, no one does (except job agency people). You had to because you lost your business and your job. I lost a job a few years back and rebounded as you have done. But now I'm retired and helping others find jobs and will surely refer people to this fantastic Hub. Don White

  • ocbill profile image


    9 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

    This has happened to a few people I know; working for about 1/2 of what they normally made.

  • Dorsi profile imageAUTHOR

    Dorsi Diaz 

    9 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

    Richard: the competition is positively fierce out there.10 years ago burger joints in Silicon Valley could not fill $10 an hour positions, and now you have qualified computer techs applying for them. Just an incredible sight to witness... really.

    Bruno: You are so right, sometimes I felt that my interviewers were a little intimidated by me, almost sizing me up as potential competition. I wanted to say to them hey don't worry, I really don't even WANT your managers job. SERIOUSLY, BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT!

    Phoenix (that's correct, right?) Hey we all have to do what we have to do! Those bene's are SO important, and the main reason I took on my second part time job. Fortunately both jobs are ones that I love, even though they don't pay well - photography and sign design. No one wants to pay what they used to anymore when they know they can hire people for less!!!

  • wsp2469 profile image


    9 years ago from Alta Loma, Ca

    My writing jobs manage to keep a roof over my head right now but with 3 kids and credit card bills and no benefits I still need a FT job.

    I lost my last one so I know just what you mean in this hub.

    Thanks for the compliments in my mail, too.

    Feel free to comment on any hub. I don't mind. I have under 80 fans so I enjoy a little conversation . . . especially with attractive women with long hair who live here in CA!

  • Bruno Deshayes profile image

    Bruno Deshayes 

    9 years ago from Australia

    I can relate to your story about running your own business. You're wondering whether you own your business or your business owns you. Re-entering the workforce after being self-employed is a tough one because you are percieved as a jack of all trades and master of none. There is also jealousy involved if the person who hires you feels you could easily take their place because your experience is so much broader. Have a great 2010.

    PS I have written a few articles on the subject and I am running a resume service.

  • livewithrichard profile image

    Richard Bivins 

    9 years ago from Charleston, SC

    Great tips Dorsi and if I had to I would take anything that would put food on the table. I work for myself as a consultant and I don't see business slowing down anytime soon fortunately but I know a few who cant get past their ego or pride and do what is right for their families. They're waiting for that perfect job to come along and don't realize that competition for those jobs are tenfold what they once were.


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