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Why accepting a job way below your skill level may lead to unexpected success

Dear Coach Joan,

I’ve been really frustrated as my job search stretched out way too long.  So I’ve taken a contract job, but am bored out of my mind! I know it’s better to be employed and have structure and income, but are there ways to make it a better situation? I feel that I’m sinking….



Dear Bob,

I applaud you in moving to Plan B. It is not fun or nearly as rewarding as getting your ideal job. But you have made a mature and wise decision to get to work, even if it is boring work. As you said, you now have structure and income. Plus,  I would contend you have more opportunity than you realize! Try to put yourself in a growth mindset vs a locked mindset.

Let’s look at three examples of clients who made the most of their contract work. They put themselves in a growth mindset. Perhaps their experiences will give you, and other readers, ideas. When it comes to our work lives, all motivated people wants to feel challenged, stimulated and that they are using their talents and skills. But you can find creative ways to get into a growth mindset:

  1. Alan became a car salesman. Alan graduated from college with a creative writing degree and wanted to get a job in an ad agency. He applied for over 100 jobs and though he did get a few interviews, he never got the job offer. After 6 months he was frustrated, out of money and really needing to get to work! His friend’s Dad owned a car dealership and offered him a job. He always liked and respected this man but never saw himself in sales or in the car business. But it was the only offer on the table. He took the job and had the good fortune of having a manager who instilled in him the understanding that any job that is worth having, can be done with a good attitude and with an openness to growing and developing. Alan shadowed this successful car salesman for the first 3 weeks during which time he also had some online training. After working his first week, he made a sale. He couldn’t believe the rush of happiness and satisfaction he got from the sale! He continued on, making the most of each opportunity to learn and develop. During his third year he sold a car to the owner of an ad agency who was so impressed with him that he offered him an interview as a copywriter (advertising writer) and got the job! He now works full-time in the ad agency but part-time in at the car dealership to boost his income.
  2. Suzy worked as a supermarket clerk. Suzy lost her long time job as the office manager of a busy medical office when the office closed. She was in her late 50s and whenever she interviewed for jobs in other medical offices she lost out to younger people who had lower salary requirements. She was frustrated and disappointed, but the reality of needing work sunk in. When she saw a help wanted sign in her local supermarket she applied and got the job. In fact, she gave it her best and due to her excellent customer facing work at the medical office she distinguished herself as a prize employee and she was promoted three times in five years. She is now a supervisor at the store and enjoying her work. Again, she told herself to give it her all and her positive attitude and skills paid off!
  3. Ben is doing data entry with an MBA. Ben earned his MBA and set his sights on getting a data analyst job in the high tech field. He’s originally from China and has a strong accent and feels it is holding him back from getting the higher level positions that he’s applied for. In fact, he got feedback that his accent was problematic. So he looked reality squarely in the face and decided to get whatever job he could in finance, even data entry, while devoting evening hours to working on improving his accent. Even though his day job is boring, he knows he is progressing in his English tutoring each evening. Additionally, he has made some friends at the company and when he reaches a certain level of language skill, the company will interview him for a higher level position.

Yes, Bob, it can be frustrating to have a boring job. But see it for what it is. Identify the skills gaps that are in the way of getting to the next level and know that you are working day by day to be positive and growing in the ways that you can. Look at the grass that comes up in the cracks in the sidewalk….find ways to GROW, whatever your job or situation. You will feel a lot better once you have built GROWTH and HOPE into your career life!

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