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Why a 'Bridge Job' Might be Right for You

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Navigating the academic job market can be almost akin to a rodeo. There are so many highs the lows, not to mention everything in between. And, just when you think you are getting somewhere, life gets in the way and you have to re-route your plans. What if the role you want doesn’t exist or isn’t available to you because of practicalities? Well, for any of these scenarios, it’s time to think outside of the box.

A 'bridge job' - what on earth are you on about Sam?

A bridge job is a role that isn’t your dream role. It’s a stepping stone role whether that be for progression or a sideways move. A bridge job is typically for a set period and with a specific purpose in mind. Essentially, a job that will bridge you closer toward your career goals.

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If you can’t find your dream academic role - create it.

Sometimes the role you want isn’t achievable. This could be for a whole host of reasons such as family, commuting distance, people or simply in a location you just don’t want to be. But this doesn’t mean that your academic career has to suffer. Yes, there are some compromises and yes it is hard watching an opportunity you would love pass you by. But it’s time to look at the bigger picture. I'm all about taking the smart route to your career. Don't sweat a dream role if it isn’t working out or achievable for you... it’s done and there is no point ruminating over it for too long. Save that energy end find an alternative role, not a perfect one, but a role that is at least achievable. Don't take the long term view on the job see it as a project for a set period and then you can re-evaluate things again as you go. It can become a long term option if you want it to be. Questions to ask yourself when weighing up a bridge job opportunity... Is there an opportunity to build specific skills? Is there an opportunity to develop in the role, access to great mentors or more practical benefits that you really need right now?

What if the bridge role doesn’t offer everything you want ?

Might it be that you supervise students elsewhere, that you do your research elsewhere... if anything these scenarios give you an excuse to branch out, meet new people and open up the horizons of what you do. The key thing with any bridge job is to be clear on what you are trying to get out of it. Now it's not all take take take here, do think about the value you can offer to the institution, colleagues and how you can contribute as well - fair is fair, right.

Will I ever find my dream job?

Hopefully, yes. But it's not always the nirvana it's cracked up to be. So take off the rose-tinted lenses. Now I’m not being all negative here but being honest. I am sure if you asked anyone in the world who has their dream job they would probably say there are some tough sides to it. In anything you do, there is always a reality so be honest with yourself and the role.

Always be open to bridge opportunities

Don’t feel compelled to follow the route everyone else is following on the academic hamster wheel (ok that's an understatement, it feels more like Mount Everest). Perhaps you can get to where you want to be faster, with more ease and with a lot more fun along the way. I have been fortunate that curveball opportunities have come up for me. Whether that be through my own network or simply scouting around to see what is out there and thinking about the trends in my own profession. It is important to keep your ears to the ground. Don't write something off because it doesn’t fit a set trajectory - explore the opportunities that might lead you to growth and development in a less crowded space. Be the person who investigates these opportunities and don't be too quick to write anything off.

Back yourself

You need guts and a lot of courage to take the leap to a bridge job. You will get questioned about it and you might second guess yourself, but you have to back yourself first no matter what. Trust your instinct and give that bridge job a go. You never know where it might lead. You may even find that your bridge job is an even better fit for you and wa-laah you have landed your perfect role. You can thank me later.

Enjoy the ride!

The thing about bridge jobs is that they give you something to sink your teeth into. We academics love a challenge - glutton for punishment, perhaps? So a bridge role certainly fulfils that need sometimes. It's great to master new skills and meet new and interesting colleagues and it might make your CV even more valuable in the future. As I have said before it is your unique constellation of skills and experience that people value. So give yourself some points of differentiation and step away from the crowd.

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