How Does Taking a Stopgap Job Affect Your Personal Brand?

How Do You Handle Taking A Stop Gap Job and Your Personal Brand?The harsh fact of today’s economy is reflected in the Bureau of Labor Statistics report (July 10, 2010):

  • There are 14.6 million unemployed in the US according to the June report, The Employment Situation.
  • The share of families with an unemployed member rose from 7.8 percent in 2008 to 12.0 percent in 2009, the highest proportion since the data series began in 1994.
  • In June, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was unchanged at 6.8 million. These individuals made up 45.5 percent of unemployed persons.

I was the speaker at a Georgetown School of Continuing Studies event called “Build Your Brand — Build Your Career.” (You can find my presentation on Slideshare) on July 14, 2010 and had a great audience of students and faculty members. One of the audience members referred to the current long-term unemployment figures and asked if taking a lower-level job would hurt a person’s brand and how they should reflect that in their online profiles.

I asked Arie Ball, Vice President, Sourcing and Talent Acquisition, Sodexo to answer this question, and her advice was as follows:

“In this economy, job recovery is just not here for many to return to positions at their former level.  There isn’t the stigma that there may have been at one time in people accepting a job they might have considered to be beneath their level, and I do not believe that it is harmful to their brand.

I do think there is always something interesting in the work we do and even in a ‘lesser’ role  there are opportunities to learn new skills  by taking on projects, getting involved in mentoring, taking classes or even teaching classes.  I also believe that smart companies and smart bosses will recognize and harness this higher level of experiences and skills.

I would not leave a ‘lesser’ job off a resume; rather, describe it in a way that demonstrates what was new, what was learned, or how I used my skills to perform at a higher level–which is more than a job title.

Kelly S. Holdcraft, Director, Paralegal Studies Program, Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, ( On Twitter as @HoyaParalegals ), who was in the audience, said:

“There is no shame in taking a job that is junior to your ultimate dream job, especially if you are strategic in targeting a certain industry, profession or employer.  In fact, some of my hardest career conversations are the ‘take a step back to take a giant leap forward’ ones, letting students know that their skills really match up with a lower-level position, rather than CEO of Apple. Regardless of economy or circumstances, EVERY job has value and it is your choice how you capitalize on it.  Remember that personal branding is all about choice, whether online or in the office.  You can choose to market yourself as either passively unsatisfied because a job is beneath you, or actively ready to add value in whatever job you are placed.  Let’s guess which choice moves you farther and faster down your career path . . . “

I asked this question on Twitter and here are some responses that I received:

Ken Camp responded: “Our jobs do not define/bound our brand. They are simply a facet of what we do in the moment. Our personal brand endures.”

Todd Jordan “I believe every job has its place, and every worker an ideal job. Represent that job as worthy.”

Ben Curnett:  “If the job makes one happier, consider the pay cut a cost of living expense. Status is nothing compared to being content.”

Sprite:  “A lower level job would hurt a person’s brand? Really? I think in today’s economy people should rethink that! Having ANY job is awesome!”

Leanne Waldal:  “Trying something new, changing direction, even if it’s ‘lower level’ is brave.”

DR V Mihaela “Personal happiness/meaningful work > personal brand, that simple.”

Thinking about how to productively spend your time when you have some downtime is also important. More than a year ago I asked Bob Carney, a Real Estate expert in Frederick, Maryland, about his advice for real estate agents when they have some downtime. His advice was to use the time to build up content on the Internet about the homes, schools and neighborhoods through blogs, websites and social networks. The investment would pay off through search engine results for local content when the market got better. With today’s Web 2.0 tools–a lot of them free–it’s easy to create content using photo sharing sites, blogs, videos and more.

What advice do you have? Please comment here and let us know.


Shashi Bellamkonda Shashi Bellamkonda is CMO of Surefire Social, AKA "Social Media Swami" at SurefireSocial. Visit Shashi Bellamkonda's blog. He is also an adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. Shashi is a regular contributor to the Washington Business Journal, DC Examiner and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology and Techcocktail. Shashi has been in the list of Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champions list for 2011 and 2012.

14 Reactions
  1. Have we really gotten so far from the mentality where people worked their way up from the mail room to the CEO office? Somebody has to do the so-called dirty jobs and the experience gained on the front lines can be invaluable.

  2. In the case of a stop-gap job, you have made some great points. One question for you though… In the next interview for your dream-job, how do you handle the question “What is your current salary? Current compensation plan?” How do you explain that you had to take a few steps back and that you are really worth way more?


  3. I don’t think this will affect someone’s personal brand. While I’m sure there will be some hiring managers who look down upon someone who accepts this type of role, overall I think that will prove to be the minority opinion.

    One thing worth noting – if there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do work that matters, this is it. You might just find out that the “stop-gap” position is actually your dream job.

  4. Martin Lindeskog

    I haven’t heard the term stop-gap job before, so it was an interesting post to read. How would categorize going from employment to self-employed, starting your own business? That could be hard to fit in regular mindset of traditional work at a company. Could it be that the average person look at someone who had a good job at company and then started his / her own business, is a stop-gap in a traditional sense?

  5. I believe I fall into what Martin Lindeskog is talking about here. From employment to being self-employed and following my entrepreneurial spirit, I believe these “stop-gap” jobs serve as one of the financial tools that can help you sustain your way of living until you are able to establish yourself. It has certainly worked for me and given me the freedom to A) Put my short-term focus on consulting opportunities and B) Put my long-term focus on my vision.

  6. Thinking on it a bit more, I’m sure that I don’t know the answer.

    My guess is that each potential employer will take your stop-gap job differently, but their reaction would depend mainly upon what you accomplished, no matter what the position.

    In other words, are you merely stopping the gap, or, as Arie Ball says, performing above expectations? If it’s the latter, it’s hard to see how that would diminish your personal brand, regardless of the level of work.

  7. Database Software

    This might have been a problem 10-12 years ago when job titles ruled and many companies were acutally providing little or no value. Much different today in this harsher climate- there is more substance to the roles people are playing as companies are demanding more out of fewer employees.

  8. Robert .

    Thanks for the comments.
    – “Somebody has to do the so-called dirty jobs and the experience gained on the front lines can be invaluable.” yes examples of folks starting at the front lines and becoming CEO are numerous. Good point and I have personal experience on how useful this is. Except i am not a CEO yet 😉 I started at Network Solutions taking calls as a customer service rep and in a previous life from a line cook onwards to a executive chef.


  9. Christo,

    Thanks for the comment. The answer to what is your current compensation plan is probably the salary of my previous job and also explain about the circumstances for the other jobs as Arie explains in the article. Good question nevertheless.


  10. Hi Martin and Nabeel,

    Great point about entrepreneurs and you added some good points to this conversation. Appreciate your stopping by and adding your wisdom.


  11. Ed,

    Love the statement, if there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do work that matters, this is it

    Thanks for commenting here


  12. Wonderful post.It is the impact of first impressions. In categorizing people, we all take shortcuts, and first impressions about people often turn into long-term perceptions and reputations — which are good for people who make positive first impressions (the halo effect), but bad for people who make negative first impressions.