Wisdom//

Maybe You Need a Limbo Job

Your best next move may be temporary.

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Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock
Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock

If you saw this subject line and were like, “what’s that?” you’re not alone. I made it up.

The limbo job can also be called the in-betweener job, the “earn some money in the meantime” job, the survival job, or the stepping stone job. I like limbo job.

A limbo job is not a dream job. It is a stop on the way to a dream job.

Career dreams take time. 
It takes an openness to test.
It takes a desire to build it right.

The trouble is most of the people I know want that dream job right now. And either you or your dream is not ready for you yet.

If you are terribly unhappy or unemployed right now, you probably don’t want to hear this.

But I can tell you this: You would be perfect for a limbo job.

The difference between a dream job and a limbo job

A limbo job is a position where you do work that you enjoy, that doesn’t exhaust you, in an environment you value.

This sounds like a dream job, no? 

The biggest difference is that you know you will leave the limbo job, whereas when you land the dream job, you think you’ll stay forever. There is no end in sight.

Taking a limbo job is a strategic career move. People do them because:

  • They need to gain experience in a new sector
  • They want to start a business but need to build up capital first. Their current job is too intense or draining to stay at
  • They lack the skills that are needed for their ideal job

You see, people take them as a stepping stone to something bigger. Often limbo jobs could be seen as an ideal job, but you have a bigger dream. You were made for something even more incredible.

How to know if you need a limbo job

Most people don’t know they want a limbo job. It takes some reality checks to know. I know a client who is taking a limbo job because we’ve identified their big dream. And, often the dream is to be an entrepreneur. But they’re not ready.

Or in the case of another client who wanted a very specialized role that wasn’t coming up for years. We knew that taking a limbo job was the best way to grow his skills while he waited for the dream job to open up.

Think about your big career dream. Don’t hold back. (People who hold back take on jobs thinking they it will be fulfilling, and then end up feeling bad about themselves).

And then ask:

  • If my dream job were to come up today, do I have the experience and connections in the industry that would set me apart from everyone else?
  • If my dream job were to come up today, do I have the knowledge and skills to do the job that way I imagine I would want to?

If the answer to those is no, you may not be ready for your dream job just yet. You could stay in your current job (if you have one) and be strategic about networking. You could use your current job to learn new skills.

But if your current job makes you feel sick, fills you with dread, exhausts you while sucking your soul or does not allow for any type of growth, you may need a limbo job.

What if you’re a closet entrepreneur?

Some of my clients come to me wanting to escape a soul-sucking job and through the process we find out that — uh-oh, they’re an entrepreneur!

They didn’t even know they were.

As they talk about what they want in their career, it can start sounding like they want to build their own thing. They didn’t know they wanted this and now they are excited to start, but they need money. And a process. And a product. And a website.

In these cases, they take a limbo job.

If you’re thinking you would like to run your own business, think about your idea and ask yourself:

  • With my existing network and support, could I make my ideal income by the end of the month?
  • Do I have a process/product that is ready to ship?
  • Do I have enough money for 3-6 months to live on as I build my business?
  • Does my current job (if you have one) energize me and give me enough space to do extra work on the side, including weekends?
  • Would there be a conflict of interest with my current position if I launched my business now?

If you said yes: You could just do it. Launch away!

If you said no: Get a limbo job.

The limbo job allows you to build connections, develop skills and squirrel away money. You can even start your business as a side-hustle as you work your limbo job.

This way, you are taking meaningful steps towards your career, but not putting yourself into a desperate place. You are a deliberate career navigator.

Limbo jobs are not slack jobs

Limbo jobs are not jobs where you do nothing and just collect a cheque. They are meaningful positions. They can be someone else’s dream job. So, if you’re taking one and you know you won’t be there for longer than three years, this is what you can strive to do:

  • Make it better than it was before you got there
  • Be present in the job
  • Treat it as if you will be there a long time
  • Don’t talk about “your big career dream” and how this job is “just a stepping stone to something bigger”

This is not a shortcut to getting your dream job. This takes work and effort. It takes being realistic about your career goals, your shortcomings, and your readiness to go for the dream. It means that the path to the dream job may be longer than you hoped.

The reality is most of our dreams take time to come to fruition. Every step you take from an intentional place makes your time and experience more profound. It sets you up for what you want. It moves the limbo time from frustrating to interesting and meaningful.

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