Placeholder jobs (and when you should have one)

Hey friend,

Packing. That's what I'm doing this week: I'm packing.

I'm wearing sweatpants and watching Gossip Girl reruns out of the corner of my eye (full recommend, btw) while I throw out junk and put other junk in suitcases.

I might only be moving from West London to East London, but it still. involves. packing.

While this is a rather minor life upset, it has me thinking about other moments in my life--and I'm grateful they've been few and far between so far--in which any career questions have to come to a grinding halt because the messiness of L-I-F-E demands your attention.

As you probably know by now, I went through the Worst Year Ever™ in 2013 while living in San Francisco. I totally lost control and spiraled into a pretty intense depression from which I could not escape.

You can read about a story I wrote about that chapter of my life here.

Anyway. I had two jobs in SF. The first was a nightmare. The second was... less of a nightmare until it became more of a nightmare, which is a story I may finally talk about publicly someday soon.

But I'm getting off topic. The important thing is that I was vaguely comatose during this second job. Couldn't see straight, couldn't think straight, couldn't... really do anything except for cry, to be honest.

And, luckily, I had this job that paid enough for me to survive and also didn't really require that much effort on my part.

I had a placeholder job.

And thank God I did, to be honest.

It was this thing that I could do everyday to stay employed while I tried to figure out some majorly hard life stuff.

It was, for me, a weird position to be in.

If you're anything like me, , you're determined to build a career that you love. I've always derived a ton of my self-worth, my passion, and my identity from my professional path.

So, even though I was hardly able to function, I really did want to help this company I was working for...

...but, on many days, I would only be able to do the bare minimum and then just quietly stare at my keyboard for hours. (I know. Depression is really, really lousy.)

I needed my help more than my company needed my help.

This is a controversial and nuanced topic, because on the whole: I advocate strongly for putting in the mothertrucking effort, seeking out the resources that will help you craft a killer strategy for getting hired (and succeeding!) in the job your dreams, and getting yourself to where you need to go.

But a job also, sometimes, has to just be a job.

Someone needs you, or you need you. Your health is more important, your family requires attention. Some life stuff is happening.

And in those moments, I'm giving you permission to professionally ride it out for a little bit. Treat your job like a placeholder job, just for a bit, while you get it together again.

Because, as they say on Game of Thrones, it's really hard to fight two wars at once.

Your job search window will not pass. Your skills and your ambition will not disappear. You just need a second. You will get in the game again really soon.

Because you can't pour from an empty cup.

Take it from someone who coaches dozens upon dozens of students through career transitions: job searching is a big thing.

So, until you've got your strength back, keep your placeholder job. Ride out the wave.

(I'll still be here when you're finished.)