Wow, thanks for the offer, but I'd rather not work at all...
March 24, 2013 9:07 PM   Subscribe

Have you, or do you know anyone who has, purposefully not taken a job at the end of a contract, in order to build skills in other areas, and been ok with a gap in work history? Snowflake details: I'm currently working on a contract for a large company, and I'm reaching the end-date for my contract. The current job itself is not my dream job, and is not very fulfilling, but it's paid the bills and the company looks good on a resume. I now have been offered another contract position, year-long, at a different large company in the area. However, I would be doing work that would be even less fulfilling, I'm afraid to the point of being mind-numbing. But the pay is good. Should I take the year-long contract for the money? Thinking about the job itself is enough to give me that anxious sick feeling.

My gut is telling me not to take this job, for my own sanity and satisfaction in my chosen field, but I'm halfway feeling like I should take this job because another will never come along.

I'm in a situation where rent is not an issue-- I had moved home after college to save money and pay down my debts-- but if I don't take this job, and another does not come along before my current contract is up, I will have that dreaded gap in the resume.

Since I'm in a creative field, I can spend the time it takes to get a job I enjoy doing freelance work and building my portfolio (and developing other skills I think are necessary but I have not had time to work on in my current position). I'm just working myself up into a lather thinking about turning down any sort of opportunity.
Would this be an issue with a future employer?
posted by lockstitch to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can work freelance and build your portfolio, there is no gap in your resume.
posted by shoesietart at 9:28 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've quit jobs twice to travel (6 - 12 months) and it's never been an issue getting a job after.
posted by MillMan at 9:28 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I saved up and left a good paying but stressful job in 2010 and spent about 15 months freelancing (quasi-creative) and traveling. My favorite freelance client hired me on last fall and I'm back to having good pay and a secure job again. I ran down my cash savings quite a bit (COBRA is expensive!) but it was worth it just to have the time to think and breathe. During interviews, my new employer said that they respected my non-traditional path and point of view -- for them, blazing my own trail illustrated that I was willing to think creatively and take risks, while knowing that I'd had time to become hungry for good work and willing to settle into full-time work again.

The trick is to KEEP WORKING, keep building skills, and use your network/good reputation to find projects. Last spring, I ran out of projects and spent a whole month in PJs watching movies with a broken arm, doing nothing, and it bummed me out. Just stay busy!
posted by mochapickle at 10:14 PM on March 24, 2013

It's not a problem, especially in the "creative" field (I assume you mean work at an advertising, interactive, or media agency, or advertising, interactive, media departments in a larger company). Increasingly companies doing this sort of work are relying more and more on contract/freelance work, and contract/freelance comes with gaps in worker's resumes.

The only problem a gap in your resume creates is a need to explain the gap. Just list yourself as freelance for the gap period and it won't be a problem. Contract agencies only care that your resumes matches keywords and you can talk coherently in an interview, and the people hiring you only care that you have the skills they want and a positive attitude/willingness to assimilate to their culture. If someone asks you about it and you're not comfortable lying, "I decided to give freelance work a try, but found lining up gigs harder than I thought it would be, part of what I'm looking for from this new job is stability" is a nice standard answer that hews to the truth.

That said — take the new job.

You said it's another contract position, year-long, but take a look at the things you signed. The recruiters are trained to couch things in terms of X long contract, but it reality you're probably not in a "contract" with them (I am not your lawyer, please actually read your documents and agreements). Most agencies make you an at-will employee of the contract agency — they can let you go at any time, and you're free to leave at any time. The reason your employers are using a contract agency is so they can fire you without paying unemployment or taking on other full employee costs.

Take the soul sucking job, continue to make money, and continue to look for that right job. Having a job makes you a more desirable hire, and if your dream job (or next step to the dream job) comes along take it, even if the year isn't up. If the job turns out to be mind numbing, you can always resign. Managers don't want people who don't want to be there — if you handle your exit professionally they'll appreciate it.

Either reason you leave you'll get some (very well acted) guilting from your recruiter, but just point out your agreements with them are at will, and you'd still be interested in hearing from them about gigs in the future. You might burn a bridge with that particular recruiter, but the agency will have your name and people will continue to contact you, and there's plenty of other recruiting agencies that will be interested in you. And really, you won't burn a bridge with that recruiter either. They're trained to try and keep you, but once they've failed they'll forget you, and reach out to you again the next time your resume matches keywords in their CRM.

Keep working though — saving money for a rainy day is hugely important. Schedule a week or two gap between gigs to recharge, keep building your skills, and keep looking for people and project you want to work with/on while you're paying the bills.

Disclaimer: Opinions are like a—holes. Everyone's got one
posted by alan at 12:25 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I dropped in to say basically the same as alan. IANAL, etc, but I only recently had this pointed out to me, and I went back and read the contracts I'd signed. In my case, anyway, it was right - what we referred to as a 'year long' contract in negotiations was a document which defined the terms of my employment for one year, but nowhere does it stipulate that either party was obligated to maintain the relationship for that length of time.
posted by solotoro at 4:14 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have enough cash to be out of work for a year and you have specific personal projects in mind that will help you increase your human capital and come back to the workforce at a better state than present then I would say is a no brainer to do it. Very few people that have the flexibility to have the kind of time you are talking about and life is too short not to do what you want to do. I would take a couple more months to save money and to ensure that you'll find either more contract work or start volunteering on the kind of activities that you think will be benefitial for you in the long-term. Employers who hear: "I took some time off to improve my skill-set, work in projects that were meaningful to me and only came back to the workforce because this position is so appealing" will probably be quite impressed.
posted by The1andonly at 8:29 AM on March 25, 2013

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