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Big Bad Jobs – can a job ruin your career?

You’ve probably heard the saying: Any job is better than no job at all. But last August a study by researchers from Manchester University found that people unemployed during the recent recession who then moved into low paid, low autonomy work, with high insecurity, had higher levels of chronic stress than those who’d remained unemployed.


So, is there such a thing as a bad job? And, what do you do if you’re stuck in ‘bad job’ rut? We asked our consultants what they thought.


  1. People say it’s easier to get a job if you’ve got a job. But what if that job’s ‘bad’?


Well, there’s no such thing as a bad job per se. Think of it like this: your CV is meant to sell you to a potential employer. So, you want to ensure that the information you include highlights your value.


So, a job which doesn’t seem relevant to your intended role could put you at a disadvantage in the recruitment race.


  1. So, what should candidates do with jobs that don’t present them in their best light?


It’s best to reframe or remove irrelevant roles on your CV. If it’s a short job it’s less problematic. List your CV in months and years rather than specific dates. And, remember you really only need to include the last 10 years of your work history.


But, if the role you’d rather forget formed a larger part of your recent career history then you need to reframe it. Focus the so-called irrelevant job on transferable skills which you believe will enhance the role you’re applying for now.


  1. So, should I take a job I’m over-qualified for?


There’s been a lot of talk in the media about over-qualified graduates over the last few years, for example. People panic that they haven’t jumped straight into a graduate-level role. But as a recent CIPD blog on their skills mis-match report explained there is a difference between over-qualified and over-skilled: “Over-qualification is a situation where an individual’s highest qualification is judged to exceed that required for the job.”


Whereas: “…an individual would be described as over-skilled if their knowledge, skills or competence is judged to exceed that required for the job.”


  1. Why is the difference between over-qualified and over-skilled important


It’s an interesting differentiation because some believe graduates can learn a lot of key employability skills from jobs they’re so-called over-qualified for. Take this from Judith Woods writing for the Telegraph:


“Ideally, in a first job your people skills get honed, you discover whether your timekeeping needs a polish and, even if you’re not inspired to set up a Christmas tree empire, at the very least you learn what it is you don’t want to do for the rest of your life.”


The problem can be that without a clear idea of where they’re headed people can get caught in a kind of career trap.


  1. What do you mean ‘career trap’?


Well, the same CIPD study, mentioned above, also found that:


“…[O]ver-qualification was associated with employees being more likely to feel they couldn’t progress in their current organisation. …[T]his is usually because they feel trapped in their current role rather than because they have developed so far they have outgrown it.”


If you know why you are doing a role – albeit not your ideal job at this time – you are far more likely to concentrate on developing the skills you need to do the role you’ve got your eye on. This is perhaps doubly important in the kind of roles mentioned in the introduction to this Q&A.


  1. Low paid, Low autonomy, high insecurity – even higher stress?


Yes, those jobs. Some other job trends we’ve been hearing about include: zero-hour contracts and the gig economy.


Just recently furniture retailer Ikea hit the headlines because it bought the gig economy odd-jobs company TaskRabbit – connecting customers through an app with freelance home maintenance tradespeople who work as and when needed.


The focus here is on flexibility – which works for a lot of people.


  1. Does flexible working mean being vulnerable?


Both these ways of working diverge greatly from the full-time, job for life model some previous generations have been used to. For people who feel it’s the only work available to them it can make them feel vulnerable or even exploited. Zero-hours contracts, for example, have been the topic of much debate.


If you want a role with set working hours or a guaranteed income then flexi-working probably won’t be a good fit. In which case, I’d really recommend getting some career advice and weighing up your options.


  1. So is it ever better to not do a job at all?


The thing is what we do for a living is so wrapped up with how we see ourselves – amongst other things.


Which is maybe why a recent report, Sick of Being Unemployed, centred on how being out of work affects men’s health in particular: “Men are nearly twice as likely to have mental health problems due to being unemployed than women”.


  1. So what’s the solution here?


There’s no silver bullet, but I’d say having a clear career plan (which you can adapt) and having access to quality career advice is key.


If you feel you’re in the wrong job or you can’t get a foot in the door it can be extremely damaging to your confidence. And, what’s worse if can feel like a vicious cycle.


  1. Any last thoughts?


Yes, if you’re at all worried about a ‘bad job’ or even a whole series of ‘unfortunate jobs’ then do consider getting a career coach or joining a good agency.


Not all agencies are the same, so make sure you find a reputable one.


Your consultant will be able to give you advice on how to best present yourself, advise you on your next best steps.


Now over to you:


Are you stuck in a ‘bad job’ rut? Want to ask about your particular career issues? If you’ve got any burning questions we’d love to hear from you!


Some next steps:


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