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.