In 5 Signs That Your New Job is the Wrong Job, an anonymous blogger described his experience with a new job that turned out to be very different than advertised. Several readers pointed out that not everyone has the option of leaving a job just because it doesn’t align with their career goals.
And they’re right — while many experienced professionals are highly in-demand and can leave a job with the relative certainty that another one will come along soon, many others aren’t as fortunate. So what do you do when the wrong job is your only option?
What you don’t do is give up. Don’t give in to the grey existence of long days spent in a role that bores you senseless. If you find yourself in a job that isn’t taking you where you want to go, then it’s up to you to get there on your own. Make a plan and stick to it. Here’s how.
Give Yourself a Deadline
You really want (for example) to transition back to marketing, but you’ve been in account management so long that your marketing skills are severely out of date. You’ve applied to a hundred marketing gigs without so much as a nibble. Instead of resigning yourself to a career in a field that doesn’t interest you, start your escape plan by putting a date on the calendar. Give yourself a year. If you’ve got a lot to learn before you make the jump, go with 18 months or even two years. The length of time matters less than committing to an end date and working toward it.
Build as Many Skills as You Can
Between now and the date of your impending escape, you need to add as many skills as you possibly can. Be aggressive. If you want to go back to marketing, you’ll need to learn the latest analytics platforms. Read up on them. Take some classes. Ask a friendly coworker to walk you through them. Learn new terminology. Read the hot blogs and books. Know the latest marketing trends and tactics. Learn about new ad units and how they work. Learn literally everything you can, because you’ve got a lot to make up for.
Get Exposure to the Department
But just knowing your stuff won’t get you into the gig you want. You have to prove that you’ve used it with some measurable success. Talk to your boss about projects that would allow you to work more closely with the marketing team. If he or she balks, you can always fall back on the “this will make me a better account manager and will help me up-sell our clients” thing.
If there’s no current project that fits your needs, then ask your boss if it’s OK to talk to the head of marketing and see if there’s an opportunity on their side. This isn’t pushy or weird. In fact, it’ll be welcome — you’re offering the marketing chief a resource that she doesn’t have to carry on her budget. While you’re there, try to gain exposure to as many things as you can. Make sure you can walk away with marketing-specific successes that you can call your own. These are going to be critical components on your resume.
Find a Freelancing Gig
This is another great way to add relevant experience to your resume. Start small — contact your friends and professional connections and see if they have any leads. If you do it well, you can earn some great experience and a decent amount of extra income.
Network Like Crazy
This is your ticket out. A network connection who knows you and is familiar with the quality of work you produce is infinitely more likely to take a chance on you than a random company that only knows your resume. So as you prepare to make your escape, make time to pursue every possible networking opportunity in your chosen field. Attend conferences. Go to meetups. Join groups on LinkedIn. And once you meet people, stay in touch. Don’t be the person who pops up on LinkedIn and says, “We met at the conference 8 months ago. Now that I’m looking for my next opportunity, I was hoping…” Seriously. No one likes that person.
This process won’t be easy. You’ll have to balance your existing job with a long-term project that is, essentially, a second full-time job. But when you finally break out of the wrong job and into the right one, you won’t regret a minute of it.