Survival jobs tend to get a bad rap, but they don’t deserve it. Lots of Canadians are doing them. And lots of people are working at skill levels beneath or different from their educational attainment. Sometimes it’s hard to see the benefits when you’re in the middle of your survival job, so take it from other ISSofBC grads: survival jobs have at least seven amazingly good benefits.
1) Awesome relationships: If the work isn’t too mentally demanding, and in survival jobs that’s usually the case, there’s lots of opportunity for getting to know co-workers. Many former ISSofBC clients have told me they really value the friendships they made during survival job experiences. Aside from friendships, the professional relationships made with supervisors reminded them of their value.
2) Learning: One ISSofBC client, a doctor in her home country, told me about how she enjoyed learning the equipment in her part-time office job. Others clients have described how they refined their sales and persuasion ability in retail jobs. Still others talk about how their English improved. Survival jobs tend to be extremely forgiving when mistakes are made and as a result, the learning potential is enormous.
3) English practice: Lots of people have adequate English, but a survival job can help to expand their ability to communicate smoothly. They also learn cultural favorite topics, like our relentless Canadian interest in talking about weather. Actually experiencing repeated small talk about weather makes newcomers quite good at it and that can help later in job interviews, networking and in professional jobs.
4) Feeling included: In any job, after a while, you start to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging. If you’re not feeling that in a larger, cultural sense, that survival job belonging can really help your self-esteem. Knowing that co-workers or customers are relying on you gives you a feeling of worth that may keep your spirits up during tough times in a lengthy, professional job search.
5) Perks: So you don’t have an expense account and your survival job isn’t flying you around the continent. Well, consider the benefits of smaller privileges. Maybe you get reduced prices on restaurant meals or maybe you get an employee discount on clothes in the store where you work. Some people will resist giving up a survival job and hang on to just a few hours just to keep those perks going.
6) Community contact: If your survival job is in your neighborhood, the work gets you out and in touch with people where you live. Even the humble act of delivering newspapers, which former clients have done, connects you to your “place” in a new way. Engaging with people and with the landscape offers you knowledge you can’t get by just passing through. The satisfaction that comes from feeling a part of a place is not to be discounted.
7) Exercise: Professional jobs often happen at a desk behind a computer. Headaches, back strain and stress are components of many professional jobs. Survival jobs, on the other hand, tend to get you moving. Maybe you are sitting on a carpet with young children and finding out how great that makes your back feel. Maybe you are doing construction work and experiencing a resurgence of your muscles. Maybe you are walking outside a lot more than you have for years and feeling the benefits of fresh air. You might just miss the exercise of a survival job when you have moved back into desk work.
Of course, we are all working to achieve our goals and to be all that we can be. But part of that process may be experiencing the benefits of survival jobs along the way. There are lots of benefits to the work and remembering them can improve your spirits.
About the Author: Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.