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How to Handle Taking an "Off-Track" Job

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast... 

Question today comes from a regular of the show, someone I am personally very fond of, but who will remain anonymous for this conversation. 

Their question came directly via LinkedIn, which is a great way for any of you listening to get your questions answered on an upcoming show, connect with me and then message your question right on the platform!   

Alright here’s the question...and I know many of you will relate to it. This is from a recent college graduate: 

“I recently started in a shipping/inventory role at a local bike and ski shop. It’s not exactly the trajectory I thought I’d be in, but life throws you curveballs sometimes (like pandemics) and you have to work with the batting count you got.  

Anyways, I started in March and have taken on new responsibilities since then. It’s a small place but I think my movement shows my upward mobility and willingness to work hard. I haven’t updated my resume or LinkedIn yet, partially because I don’t know how long I will be here, partially because it’s such a small org, and partially (and I know this is silly and selfish) because I didn’t think I’d be in this position. Would really appreciate any legendary Brian advice on this situation. You’ve given me so much insight and knowledge over the years, I know you’ll have a great perspective on this." 

A little bit of background – this is a recent college graduate, who in my estimation has done everything right. They connect and build relationships, they’ve done really incredible internships, they’ve studied the market and know what is in demand, their resume and cover letter look awesome. 

I commend them, and I am enormously confident something more permanent and career-focused will come through soon. 

But it does go to show you, we are not in normal times. All this is to say, you sometimes have to throw out normal advice and adjust.  

 


 

Let’s start with this – in everyone I’ve talked to in hiring, they are more understanding than ever about the situations entry level job seekers are in. You all have been thrown into an untenable situation, something none of us could have imagined or prepared for.  

Now, that is not a "get out of pandemic free card" allowing you to take a year off still get a great job. Employers are willing to adapt and look at potential hires more open-mindedly, but you still have to show accomplishments over the last year.  

That is the number one question on interviews now, so what did you do during the pandemic? You have to have a story for that other than, I put on 15 pounds.  

To this specific question – I think you own this with pride. Put it on LinkedIn, show the upward mobility and turn this into a cover letter story.  

Let’s unpack this a bit.  

In the past I never would have suggested that you put temporary, non-transferrable jobs on your LinkedIn profile. Sharing that you worked part-time at Taco Bell or the Gap doesn’t really help tell your professional story.  

But these are different times.  

I would include that you are working at the local bike and ski shop (with a caveat – which I’ll explain shortly).  

And in so doing, I would try very hard to identify skills and opportunities you are exploring there that could be transferrable.  

For example, if you want to get into marketing for your career is there any chance to help with their google PPC campaigns in addition to your other work? Create some of their brochures or flyers? Any excel work you can do for them? 

Keep pushing yourself toward new skills you can highlight.  

I also believe this is your new cover letter. I can see it a little in my head – Something like,  

Two months ago, I accepted a position at a local bike and ski shop, and while it is not quite the career plan, I had for myself, I only know one way to work – fully committed. In just a short time period I have been promoted, taken on new responsibilities, and continue to grow as an individual. 

I never contemplated that after graduating near the top of my sports management program and having completed internships with two different MLB teams that finding the right career opportunity would be as difficult as it has, but these are strange times and I’m adapting. 

Get into your ambition. Get into pride. Get into your drive and work ethic.  Make me feel something for you and your situation, make me connect with you and want to know more.  

I sat in on a cover letter writing webinar last week, I’m always trying to hear new ideas and thoughts, and it became clear I have a very different view than most. But I think more than ever it is the right view.  

You are trying to craft a great story that hooks a reader into wanting to know more about the subject – in this case, you. Rehashing your resume, being too stiff, being prescribed, doesn’t work.  

Tell me a story – help me get to know you. Give me insight into who you are and what drives you. That’s' good stuff. That’s a cover letter people will read.  

This step for you, albeit off the track you had for yourself is part oof your story – don't run from it, embrace it. This is a time you can embrace the abnormal.  

Be humble - I didn't see myself being here, but since I am, I'm going to do everything I can to grow and improve. 

Now – let's get to that caveat.  

I told you to put this on your LinkedIn profile, don’t run from it, embrace it, have it become part of your story.  

BUT – let's smooth out the edges a bit.  

Two things: 

1: Explain it in your “about” section. Give it come context, just like your do in your cover letter. 

2: Sign up for a course or a certificate program that is directly aligned with your career aspirations and add that to your experience section too with a date of March – present. 

It'll show you are still actively working to improve yourself in your field of choice, and not just resigning to where you are right now.   

I’ll stress this again. Confidence is something we look for in hiring. And remember, confidence comes from putting in the work. I know you have put in the work, so speak of your current challenges with confidence, don’t run from it, don’t hide. Keep putting in the work.  

One last point. As you, or anyone else start jobs that may be out of your exact career goals, be driven to achieve, work hard, do your best, look for ways to take on more and more growth opportunities.  

But don’t stop the steps. Network, set up informational interviews, refine your skillset based on industry demand. Don’t give up on the dream.  

By Brian Clapp | April 26, 2021
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