What To Do When You're Stuck In A Bridge Job

By: Jennifer Faherty

Recently our family took a trip to the Colorado Rockies from the East Coast, with travel time totaling well over 10 hours. I think I must have heard the questions “Are we there yet?” and ”How much longer?” at least a dozen times from my kids.

Could you blame them? It’s hard to contain your excitement when all you want to do is just get to your destination as soon as possible, especially if it’s something you’ve planned for so long.

This is not only true for kids and physical journeys. It’s just as easy for us as adults to get anxious when it comes to our metaphorical journeys as well… including the journey from one career to another.

You may be someone who knows exactly where you’re headed when it comes to your work life. You may know, for example, that you want to start an online business, write a novel, or get another degree in a completely new field. But if you can’t make it happen immediately, you also may find yourself stuck in a “bridge job” until you can reach your so-called career destination.

And that waiting period can be frustrating. Like a trip across the country, it can feel very, very long.

The first thing I would say is: consider yourself lucky. At least you know what you want. Many people long to have that kind of clarity and focus when it comes to their purpose and next steps.

Second, recognize that there are things you can do to make your bridge job and transitional period more tolerable, so you’re not continually asking yourself “Am I there yet?” and “How much longer?”

Here are a few starters:

1. Have an entrance/exit strategy

Just like there are exit strategies, there are entrance strategies. By this I mean, know exactly why you’ve chosen the bridge job in the first place and what you hope to get out of it. If it’s solely for income, be specific about how much you’ll need to save until you can transition fully. If it’s skills or certain experience you need, define exactly what that means. If you don’t have a clear strategy in place, you won’t know when it’s time to leave and that can make the journey much longer than it needs to be.

2. Track your progress

Once you determine your entrance/exit strategy, make sure you track your exact progress daily.

This may take the form of a simple notepad where you write down, for example, exactly how much you’re putting into a savings cushion on a daily basis that will allow you to finally quit. Or, you could track the skills you are honing or the network you are building that will bridge you to your next career.

By making it a habit to track your progress, you’ll be less inclined to feel like your journey is a never-ending path and instead be able to see real results that are bringing you closer toward where you want to go.

3. Enjoy the view

Do this by identifying at least one skill you’re using in your bridge job that will help you succeed in your next position. For example, if you’re an aspiring writer who’s stuck answering customer service calls all day, stop thinking your day is a waste or feel like it’s boring, Instead, use the conversations you’re having as a way to improve the dialogue and plot of your future characters. If you’re a teacher who’s eager to be a lawyer, hone your presentation skills in a way that would be applicable in the classroom and the courtroom.

The point is to find ways to enjoy what you are doing now, so you are not always fixated upon some future date when you’re finally able to quit and start the next phase of your career.

Jennifer Faherty is a Certified Coach and CFP® specializing in helping women define success on their own terms, make the best career decisions for themselves, and find work they love. Visit jenniferfaherty.com.

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