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Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Every Sunday evening, you have a growing sense of dread as the last few hours of your weekend slip by.
Most mornings, you can barely drag yourself out of bed because you can’t imagine spending another day at your job.
You have big plans for your after-work hours, but after 8+ hours at your job, all of that flies out the window because you’re flat-out exhausted. You hardly have enough energy to pick up dinner on the way home and zone out to a few hours of Netflix.
You have a habit of casually scrolling through job postings, but rarely have the energy to actually apply for anything. That is, until you have a particularly awful day at work, and then you spend hours checking every job board you can think of and sending out rapid-fire applications.
You, my friend, have a draining job. And you need a new strategy.
Most of my clients who are in this situation know that they need a change, and they’re desperate to escape their miserable (sometimes even toxic) environment.
They want to find their dream job — someplace where they’re engaged, supported, passionate, and making a positive impact. They dream of waking up in the morning without that persistent sense of dread … maybe even with a sense of eagerness to do something they care about.
The trouble is, finding a dream job can take time. It’s like finding a partner or best friend — it usually doesn’t happen on your timeline.
Dream jobs are rare, and that’s what makes them special and exciting. You’ve got to sift through a lot of “meh” jobs before you find a true gem. While I’ve seen clients find amazing jobs within weeks, it usually takes months or longer.
You see the dilemma here. When you’re in a draining job that you hate, you’re ready to leave, like, yesterday. And yet, it may take months to find your dream job.
So what do you do?
Staying in your current job, where you’re drained, exhausted, and desperate to leave ASAP, is only going to grow your sense of urgency and desperation. More than likely, you’ll find yourself settling for another not-so-great (but-slightly-better-than-where-you’re-at-now) job just to escape sooner.
I have a better strategy for you.
Enter the bridge job.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A BRIDGE JOB?
A bridge job is a temporary job that gives you space to catch your breath, regain your energy, and provide some low-pressure income, while also giving you more time and energy to work toward finding your dream job.
I love the phrase “bridge job” because I visualize it as an actual bridge connecting two shorelines on opposite sides of a river.
You want to cross over from where you are now to where you want to be. Sure, you could always swim across, fighting the current and wearing yourself out (which is what it feels like to keep showing up at a job you hate day after day). Or you could save yourself a lot of energy and simply find a bridge to cross over.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BRIDGE JOB
So what makes a great bridge job?
A bridge job should …
- Be something you’re naturally good at and don’t have to think too hard about.
- Not put much strain on your physical, mental, or emotional energy, so you can focus the majority of your energy on your dream job search.
- Fund your baseline living expenses.
- Have reasonable, predictable hours with little (or, preferably, no) chance of overtime.
- Have a positive environment.
- Be in a company/industry with high turnover where you won’t feel much guilt about leaving after a year or less.
If you’re lucky, you may even find a bridge job that helps you develop a skill you’ve been wanting to hone or network with people who could help with your dream job search. While those things are nice to have, they’re not necessary to getting the full benefit of a bridge job.
Remember, the whole point of a bridge job is to release the pressure to escape your current situation immediately, so that you have a clear mind to make a quality decision about what you want to commit to next.
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING …
The idea of getting a bridge job can bring up all kinds of fears and questions.
In case you’re wondering or worried about any of the following (all of which I’ve heard directly from clients!), here’s my preemptive response:
What if I get stuck in this bridge job?
When you’ve been in a miserable, toxic job for a while, a bridge job can feel like such a massive relief that it’s natural to worry that you might find yourself staying there for longer than you intended.
That’s why it’s important to set an intention about how long you’ll stay before you even get started. Set a check-in date with yourself to reassess how you’re feeling after a few months, put it on your calendar, and ask someone you trust to hold you accountable.
Won’t this be taking a step backward in my career?
I understand why you might worry that a bridge job feels like a step backward, since it may not follow the linear progression of how a career “should” look (huge emphasis on the quotes around “should”). But if it’s setting you up to be more clearheaded, energized, and prepared for your dream job once you find it, then that feels like a positive step forward in my book.
Will I “screw up” my résumé with a bridge job?
Not at all. To a quality employer, it matters far less how your résumé looks in isolation, and way more how you explain your experience in a cover letter and interview. Be upfront and honest about why you took a temporary job and how it’s improved your mindset, health, and energy. Not everyone will understand, but your dream job company — the place where you’ll feel acknowledged, supported, and inspired — absolutely will.
Won’t it take even longer to get my dream job this way?
It may feel like getting another job before pursuing your dream job will make the whole process take a lot longer. But in my experience, it just doesn’t work that way. When you’re desperate to escape a miserable job, that energy is palpable and off-putting, and it can get in the way of you representing yourself in the best light to potential employers. But when you’re content where you are and simply looking for a new, exciting opportunity, that’s a far more attractive energy.
But I want to start my own business. Does it make sense to get a bridge job if I ultimately want to work for myself?
Yes! In fact, bridge jobs can be a perfect transition from full-time employment to full-time self-employment. They can provide some supplementary income as you build up your business, without diverting too much energy and focus from your bigger business vision.
YOU’RE NOT BROKEN OR IMMATURE IF YOUR JOB IS DRAINING THE LIFE OUT OF YOU
A client who’s currently looking for a bridge job recently asked me:
“Do you think I’m being immature/childish by feeling so strongly against my current job? I wonder now if I’m being too dramatic and need to learn to ‘grow up,’ suck it up, and be an adult.”
In case you’re feeling the same, here’s what I told her:
“I want to say this as strongly as I possibly can: NO, you are not being immature or childish for disliking your current job and so desperately wanting out.
Being mature doesn’t mean ignoring how you feel about something and fighting against the current. Your feelings about this job are REAL, and trying to ignore or repress them doesn’t make you a better ‘adult’ or more responsible. It just makes you miserable.
Your feelings about this are trying to tell you something. They’re screaming, ‘You don’t belong here!’ And listening to that message doesn’t make you weak or immature; it makes you wise.“
BRIDGE JOBS AREN’T FOR EVERYONE
If you’re already in a job that’s perfectly fine, but clearly not dream job status, then you likely don’t need a bridge job. Although, you could start thinking of your current job as your temporary bridge job. That alone can be a huge perspective shift: instead of thinking of your current job as a waste of your time, you could choose to see it as the bridge that’s leading you toward something bigger and better.
However, if you related to any (or all) of the experiences I listed at the beginning of this blog, a bridge job might be just what you need right now.
I’d love to hear what you think about bridge jobs. Could a bridge job be exactly what you need right now? Have you benefited from a bridge job in the past? Leave a comment to let me know!
Kristen (& Rachel)