Use bridge jobs to transition into your dream career

What bridging jobs are and why they are important for finding your dream job.

A bridge job is any job you get that provides you the time and mental space (and not to mention a paycheck) to navigate your way to the actual career path you want. A bridge job is not a “career move” in that it’s probably not similar to the dream job you’re ultimately going for, but it’s something you can do with minimal effort that provides you enough time and money to get by while you actually get focused on your career transition.

“Just as there are bridging courses in university that can equip you to qualify for certain degrees, in your career, you may need to do some "bridging jobs" to qualify you for your dream role!. A bridging job (also referred to as a scaffold, connector or lynchpin role) is a job that is not quite your ideal but is necessary to get you the skills towards your dream position,” says industrial psychologist Phiona Martin.

“Bridging jobs, though less than quintessential, should be embraced and not regarded with contempt. This is because they are transient. One is not meant to be in them in “forever”. Rather, their purpose is to facilitate a path to get you across to where you want to be careerwise.”

For example, imagine you are an HR administrator but your dream is to work as an IT professional. Moving directly from being in HR Admin to IT may be putting too much unrealistic pressure on yourself. How can you, therefore, use the principle of bridging jobs to get there? A great starting point is taking into account transferable skills. As an HR Administrator, you will probably possess some great administration and coordination abilities. This may qualify you to apply for admin related roles in an IT department e.g. help desk administrator, IT Project Coordinator, Customer Care in an IT company etc. Perhaps after a year or two in this role, you will qualify for an entry level IT job e.g. Junior Help Desk professional. This is, of course, considering that you are studying towards the relevant qualifications.

Because a bridge job isn’t intitially perceived as a step forward in terms of earning more money or moving up the corporate ladder, people are often deterred by what their friends, family and colleagues might think of them. However, while it might look like a step backwards to some, a bridge job can get you out of a toxic workplace and provide you with much-needed time and mental energy. If the income from that job is not sufficient enough to tide you over, think of getting other part-time roles babysitting, teaching guitar, dog walking, waiting tables, or just staying in the field you’re in as a part-time consultant while you find your way to a different profession altogether. 

Your core focus, when in a bridging job, should be on retooling, gaining more marketable skills, or otherwise positioning yourself for your next career move. People often feel self-inflicted and societal pressure to get into their dream career immediately, without considering that some transitions need time. Qualifying for your dream job can be a few or even many years away so you need to sacrifice time and income in order to get to where you want to be.