As part of career coaching clients, I am often in a position of having to try to convince them of the benefits of survival work to help carry themselves over tough financial patches in their lives. Job seekers are nervous about taking a job outside of their career path, worrying that it will take them away from their intended direction. They also tell me that they worry that survival work might be perceived by potential employers as a failure. Actually, survival jobs can be a source of new opportunities — sometimes, they’re just a chance to bring in some short-term income, other times they become opportunities to meet new people, learn new skills and maybe even move into a new career.
What are Survival Jobs?
For some people, survival (or interim) jobs are lower skill, short notice, often short-term positions which job seekers take to carry themselves over while working on another longer term goal. Some people spend their entire careers in such positions, preferring the variety and physical challenges of these positions. Others do the work because they have no choice, burdened by challenges such as low skills, a need for urgent income and problems finding work. Depending on your skills and physical abilities, there are a range of positions that you might be able to find that could be described as “interim”.
Typically, these might include:
- General Warehouse — working daytime, afternoon or night shifts, requiring the ability to lift weights such as 30-60 lb, and having safety shoes. This kind of work mostly does not expect experience or any certification and often pays minimum wage.
- Cherry Picker/Forklift — working often full days, requiring a Forklift Licence and Certification in Fall Arrest Protection. Salary might be higher — about $15 p/hour
- AZ Drivers — loading, unloading and delivering materials or goods. These jobs require an AZ licence, driving experience and often a clear driving abstract, as well as the ability to life $50 lb
- Bakery Production/Batch Mixers — late afternoon and night shifts, mixing ingredients and working in an assembly or production line in a commercial bakery. These jobs require attention to detail, the ability to lift some weight (40 lb), some administrative abilities (stocking, shipping and receiving) and packaging
- Metal Fabrication — working with metal in a manufacturing environment, including operating equipment that produces, cleans or processes the materials, sorting, packing, transporting materials. Requires Steel-toed boots, safety goggles and gloves, and the ability to lift a medium amount of weight (20 lb)
- Landscaping — working outdoors, doing tasks such as levelling, laying and cutting stone, planting, sodding, grading and operating equipment. These jobs are team efforts, so good teamwork and communication skills are valued, as is experience in this field.
- Construction — working on construction sites, doing a range of tasks including scaffold erection, assembly and stripping of concrete forms, concrete pouring, carpentry and/or woodworking, basic plumbing and electric knowledge and many others. Experience using nails guns, power tools, saws, measuring tape, hammer, and other tools are often required. Companies often will provide some training. Jobs are often performed on weekdays, starting early in the morning (7:30 am)
- Warehouse Clerk — Often shift work, these jobs will include some training, but prefer experience and knowledge of computers and scanners, as well as working with inventory and cycle counts and shipping/receiving. Forklift is often valued, in addition to strong communication skills and the ability to do some lifting.
- Food Service — these jobs are shift jobs, that often into the night and over weekends. Employers are most interested in an enthusiastic and warm personality, as well as the ability to multitask well. Knowledge and a passion for food and drinks is valued. Certain certifications might be needed, such as Smart Serve for alcohol servers might be required or Food Handling Certification for those working in the kitchen.
- Call Centre Representative — these jobs often require evening and weekend shifts, making outbound calls to sell a product or service, or to gather market survey information via the telephone, or deal with incoming calls from clients. Most importantly, employers value communication skills and a warm, yet professional demeanour. Sometimes, employees might work from home. Second languages are valued, especially French.
Where can Survival Jobs Be Found?
Jobs are almost always advertised through agencies and require a resume to apply. Often agencies invite candidates to call directly or to come in person to the office at certain designated times, but other times, they require resumes to be submitted online or via email.
The second best way to find these positions is to identify the agencies that hire in your area. Here are some agencies that I was able to find in the Toronto area:
- Listing of Toronto Employment Agencies
- Arrow Professionals
- EXE Staffing
- MSM Group (Jobsite)
- BR Staffing
- Sabat Staffing
- Randstad Engineering
- Gemma Communications
Other sources of jobs and employers include aggregating sites such as Indeed.ca or SimplyHired.ca, where a candidate can search , using keywords (“general labour”, “Warehouse Clerk”, etc) and location, and set up an alert system that will inform them via email every time suitable jobs appear.
From my experience with clients who take survival jobs, the benefits of survival work mostly outweigh the challenges. Besides earning income, people enjoy the structure and routine of working, the opportunities to meet new people, gain new skills, and sometimes opportunities for advancement in new and upcoming sectors. Interim work could also help job seekers in their job search for other work, by providing them with recent references and an easy answer to the “what are you doing right now” question often asked by interviewers.