Why Smart People Use Umbrellas When It Rains


I’m always amazed at how questions from readers go in streaks.

A few weeks ago, I had a flurry of relocation questions.  Now, suddenly, I have a bunch of people who are asking some variation on this theme:

I’ve been out of work for months.  I have a job offer, but it’s not in my field (or the pay sucks, or it’s a step down from my old job, or whatever).  I was considering taking it, because I need money and I have no other prospects, but career experts keep telling me that it will ruin my resume and I’ll never work again.  What should I do?

First, you should require those “career experts” to pay your bills for a couple of months, as penance for giving you such crappy advice.  Next, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does having money suck more or less than not having money?
  2. Does sitting on my ass watching The Real Housewives of Orange County marathons make me a more attractive candidate than going to work, even if the work is un-glamorous or “beneath me?”
  3. Would I ever want to work for someone so stupid that she thought it would be better to spend months watching the aforementioned The Real Housewives of Orange County marathons instead of earning a living somewhere?

Then, assuming you’re not an idiot and the position being offered is not “ho” or “crack dealer,” TAKE THE JOB.

I call these jobs umbrella jobs.  That’s because when you’re caught in a downpour, and someone offers you an umbrella, you take it.   You don’t lament the fact that it’s not a designer umbrella, or it doesn’t match your shoes, or it’s a color you hate.  You take it, and you open it, and the rain stays off of you.  Then, when you get home and out of the rain, you get your own (better) umbrella…or, maybe, you find out that you actually really like that umbrella they gave you after all.  It happens.

Let me tell you about the two times I’ve taken an umbrella job:

When I first moved to Milwaukee from Los Angeles in 1992, I came with no job lined up. I got here on a Friday, and when the Sunday paper came out, I went through it and cut out all of the administrative assistant ads and taped them to index cards. Then I typed out cover letters for each one of them on my trusty electric typewriter, on my fancy cream colored paper. Then I paired them up with the resumes I’d had printed at the print shop, and walked them to the post office to mail. Kids, this is how we did things back in the day.

When I got home, I found that there was one more little cut out classified ad on the floor below my desk. I was tired, and I’d just typed out 32 cover letters by hand, and I’d already mailed the whole stack…so I debated whether it was worth bothering with #33. The ad didn’t look like much, and the pay was really low. Then I remembered I was alone in a strange town, with rent to pay on my first apartment and no money left after paying for the move. So I typed up one more letter, sealed the envelope, and went back to the post office.

I ended up getting the job from that ad. It sucked. In fact, it sucked so badly that I would have quit the very first week if it wasn’t for the fact that the intern who also worked there was hot. I endured that crappy job for several months for the sake of that intern…who is now my husband (and still a hottie).  I still have the index card with the ad.  It’s in a box somewhere with my notes from boys in 10th grade and my yearbooks and the “I Voted” sticker from my first election.

About four years later, I moved to Washington, DC with a degree in political science and a vague idea that I was going to work on Capitol Hill or at the White House or something.  Again, I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t have a job lined up.  I’d never been east of Chicago before this.

I took a job with a temp agency.  They sent me on a three-week stint as an executive assistant at the phone company (an assignment that irked me, because I’d worked my way through college as an executive assistant, and I thought now that I was a college graduate, the world should recognize my brilliance.  I was an idiot.).  The three weeks turned into a couple of months, and one day, I overheard a couple of managers in the copy room complaining about having to drive downstate to help conduct interviews on college campuses.  I volunteered to go with them and help out.  I had a great time.  I volunteered to do more on-campus interviews.  That was the start of my career in human resources (a path I’ve never regretted for a minute, even though I’m changing directions now).

Now, your umbrella job may not lead to a spouse or career…but it will almost certainly lead to a paycheck.  Paychecks are your friends.  If you’re in a position to be picky, well, more power to you.  But if you’re wavering because some idiot told you that earning a paycheck was a bad thing…nope.  That’s a load of crap.  Don’t listen to ’em.

Photo by Tatters

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