should I take a one-month, seasonal position that’s far from home and won’t pay me much?

by Ask a Manager on October 6, 2009

A reader writes:

I have been unemployed for 6 months. I keep going on interview after interview — all well prepared, well researched, well rehearsed and thought they all went extremely well. Then, nothing. Last week, I had three interviews that all went really well. The third I was offered the job on the spot, but I asked for some time to consider the offer based on the following:

1) It’s seasonal.
2) It’s only a month long.
3) It’s 35 miles one way.
4) The pay will have me break even.

Of course, I did not tell him that.

The two other jobs SEEMED interested in having me back for a second interview/ skills test (I’m a visual merchandiser, its not uncommon to be asked to “show ‘em whatcha got” in store) before they hire by the end of the month. I’m concerned that if I take the seasonal job I won’t have the time to interview elsewhere. I also don’t want to say yes and then later back out, I don’t like burning bridges. However, my unemployment is running out and the seasonal position is the only one that has solidified itself.

Any advice would be much appreciated! Thank you!

I’m having trouble seeing the advantages of taking the job. There’s apparently no monetary gain, as you say you’ll break even on the pay. So it’s short-term, and without any financial gain. Plus you might even come out behind, since you said you won’t be able to continue interviewing during that time.

Is this job prestigious? Likely to add significantly to your resume and/or help you build important connections that you would not otherwise have? If so, those are valid reasons to take it despite the above. But if the answer to both those questions is no, then I have to wonder what you’d gain from it. It almost seems like at that point you’d be taking a job just for the sake of being employed — but not for any of the reasons you actually want a job, such as monetary gain, professional advancement, etc.

If you decide to turn it down though, I recommend explaining to the employer that the numbers don’t work out for you — that you’d just be breaking even. They may surprise you and make you a higher offer once they hear that, so it’s worth mentioning.

Good luck!

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{ 5 comments }

Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 1:04 am

Thank you so much for answering my question! I really do appreciate it.

I wouldn't consider the position particularly prestigious. Or glamorous, or creative for that matter! Its for a large company (who does a certain holiday parade in NYC, hint hint), so I suppose it wouldn't look bad on a resume, I'm sure I would learn a thing or two, but it wouldn't be a show stopper at all.

I was told that a permanent position COULD open up in January, but I would be settling for just a "job" rather than a career that utilizes my skills in conceptualizing and being more creative. But, I also don't want to turn my nose up at a job, either.

As I mentioned, my unemployment is running out soon. So, the way I was looking at it is at very least its still in my field and not a random job, and even if I break even it may extend my benefits when the position ends.

The downfall is not being able to interview elsewhere in the meantime. That is probably my biggest concern.

What would you all do? I am really on the fence and stressed beyond what I should be about this.

Ask a Manager October 6, 2009 at 1:07 am

I would call your state unemployment office and ask them about this: Does taking a one-month job near the end of your unemployment payments restart the clock on your eligibility? If so, that alone might be reason to take this job.

Also, you might consider asking this employer if they can allow you some occasional flexibility for interviews, given that it's only a one-month position and you obviously will continue to look for work. They might be able to bend a little.

Sarah G October 6, 2009 at 3:54 am

Definitely get more info on unemployment benefits before factoring it into your decision. In IL, you get at least one 6-month extension beyond the initial 6 months, and I think maybe even a bit more is possible.

But if you're at a job less than a certain amount of time (I think 3 months) or if your position is contract work…i.e. the company doesn't pay into gov't unemployment insurance benefits on your behalf — you could have problems getting benefits reinstated. Get all the details from your local office!

Dustin October 6, 2009 at 12:04 pm

First, seasonal jobs rarely qualify you for unemployment, extension or otherwise, so that's unlikely (state laws vary on this, though, so still check). Second, make sure that you know what you would be willing to accept, on the off chance that they do offer you an increased rate after you decline. Don't plan on having time to deliberate as to whether or not it's enough money, because then they'll just think that you weren't really turning it down because of money. Good luck!

Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Good advice, guys. I totally forgot about the time frame in which you need to work somewhere to establish unemployment. I guess I have been so itching to work that I overlooked some stuff, and the more I think about it, the more "iffy" the situation is..

When I was offered the job, it was significantly less than what I had been working for or was willing to make hourly. But, he said he still was not sure and would have to get back to me on the "official" amount when his boss returned from vacation (I have heard this line more times than I care to count). Even though I contacted him, he never responded back. Which leads me to say..hmmmmmm

I did tell the other two positions that seemed like they were at least interested in a second interview that I had received an offer and they were my first choice (either one of them would be amazing positions!) if given the opportunity and wanted to know where I stood in being considered a candidate.

I did hear back from one with a sort of generic "Thank you it was wonderful to meet you, we're in the process of scheduling a day for the "test" and will keep you posted".

Hopefully she was being sincere, its so disheartening to keep going through this.

Gosh, I just wish I knew what I was really up against. There must be an overwhelming amount of insanely talented people who are willing to work a mid-level visual merchandising job.

Well, I think I realized that this seasonal position is a bust for the most part. Live + learn!

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