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I'm an IT worker. A little bit of Server Administration with a heavy dose of help desk and desk-side support work. My previous company downsized in May and I've been applying and interviewing for jobs ever since.

I've burned through my savings and unemployment barely covers the bills, so I've been considering taking a job in retail to help. But, I'm going to continue to look for jobs in the IT field if I take a retail job.

Do I let the employer know that? How do I broach the subject? It's the right time of year for seasonal work, and I have some retail experience in my background, so I don't think finding a job would be hard. I'm just not sure how to handle the fact that this job would be temporary while I continue to look for an IT position.

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    Would you expect them to tell you that they're going to continue to look for people after they hire you? Nov 11 '21 at 20:35
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    Don't ask, don't tell :D They perfectly understand anyone would quit low paying retail job if they could find something else.
    – rs.29
    Nov 12 '21 at 13:01
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    How would you feel about the reverse? "We'd like to offer you a position at Store X. You weren't really what we were looking for, but you'll do for now. We are already planning to fire you as soon as we find someone better." Not a great way to start an employment relationship. Nov 12 '21 at 13:59
  • @NuclearHoagie I don't agree with the phrasing about "feelings" but I agree with the idea. Just don't tell them. They wouldn't tell you either.
    – bash0r
    Nov 14 '21 at 0:35
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What would you achieve by doing this? The obvious answer is that they will not bother to employ you or even interview you. You do not know how long it will take to get your "dream" job.

So why bring it up?

BTW - Write a version of your CV for this particular role - i.e. dump the technical stuff

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    This is the right answer. I literally wanted to write the same thing, i.e. "why would you do that?"
    – Tom
    Nov 13 '21 at 3:38
  • You're not wrong, Ed, but in answer to the question "What would you achieve?" -- the OP feels that it's just good manners. I've felt that way myself when applying for survival jobs. Nov 14 '21 at 18:16
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    When Ed says "dump" the technical stuff, I think that will show big gaps on your resume. Better to "downplay" it instead. Nov 14 '21 at 18:22
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You have no obligation to tell them that you will be looking for a better paying job while you are working there.

It's the right time of year for seasonal work

You know this. They know this. If the job is seasonal then at the end of the season most of the new hires will be let go. Quitting at near the end of the season just means they can skip one difficult conversation.

Do I let the employer know that? How do I broach the subject?

If your application/Resume/CV shows experience in IT and the retail position is below your skill level, expect them to ask a question related to that. They want to make sure you won't quit on day one, but they also know they probably can't stop you from quitting on when you find a better job.

Decide how you will answer their question about why you are looking in retail.

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  • Do you know whether OP is in a country with at-will employment?
    – OmarL
    Nov 12 '21 at 8:57
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    Zero hour contracts are the same thing to a significant extent. So you don't quit or get fired, one party just stops offering/accepting shifts and that's that. I don't know how widespread those things are but they certainly exist in countries that do not have American style "at will" employment.
    – Eric Nolan
    Nov 12 '21 at 10:52
  • @EricNolan Zero hour contracts exist in the UK and are used in retail, I don't know how widespread they are. They are illegal (and hence do not exist) in large parts of continental Europe.
    – quarague
    Nov 14 '21 at 20:46
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No.

Also, change your username - it could be easy to trace back to you.

Employers should expect that their employees will still be on the lookout for better things elsewhere - to be honest it would be foolish not to. Heck, even your manager probably is. And if they know you're looking, depending on the employer they may use it against you (I once interviewed for a company without knowing they were a client of my employer-at-the-time, they told my employer and I was threatened with being terminated. My employer then stalked my reddit account and found other conversations about jobs that way).

Don't tell your employer. They know people will be looking anyway - all employers do, it's to be expected.

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To expand on Joe Strazzere's comment: in your position I wouldn't be looking for a permanent job in retail - that would be potentially dishonest whether or not you mention your real plans to a prospective employer; rather, I would look to register with a temp agency and take a succession of short-term jobs instead.

If you register with a temp agency, your contract (such as it is likely to be) is with them, not the retail outlet or company they place you with; this means you can take only jobs with a reasonable length of placement (say one or two months), so you are always in a position to complete your obligation if you do find a job (I'm assuming accepting a job one or two months before the start date is OK where you are).

Temp agencies are well used to people coming and going and will also take the legwork out of scanning jobs listings for suitable positions, and since they contract with their clients to provide staff rather than a particular named person, they generally have the flexibility to cope with truly temporary employees. They will, of course, expect you to keep looking for a job more in line with your skills and expectations, but you will be far from the only one of their employees doing so.

Of course, it may not work out so smoothly (I have no idea what demand for retail staff is like wherever you are), but at this time of year especially I would be very surprised if you didn't get enough work to keep the bills paid and the fridge full until you find what you're really looking for.

Good luck whatever you decide and don't stop looking for your preferred position - the right job will be out there somewhere.

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  • Also consider temporary office worker positions. These are quite common and you proabably have skills (particularly computer skills) that are directly applicable. (Back in the early '90s I couldn't get a job in IT on my working holiday, but I was one of the best word processor operators my agencies had ever seen.)
    – cjs
    Nov 13 '21 at 2:30
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Don't.

Put quite simply, you should never tell your current employer that you are looking for work elsewhere. That goes for temporary work as well as it goes for more 'permanent' work.

Doing so tips them to the fact that they may need to replace you soon, or that you won't be putting all your effort into the new position, and may prompt them to replace you sooner.

And, you are under no obligation either moral or legal to disclose you are job-hunting.

Provide a two-weeks notice, and only do so when you have secured a new job.

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    One additional point may be that by telling them your plans, in addition to telling them that they will likely be replacing you soon, but may also think that you believe you are too good for the position and won't be putting the effort they need into it. Nov 12 '21 at 15:15
  • @MichaelRichardson I will add that to this answer.
    – Zibbobz
    Nov 12 '21 at 16:20
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As many others have stated, you generally should not bring up your continued job searching. Seasonal retail definitely helps, but rather than just work under the assumption that "everyone knows 1/2 the workers will be seasonal", if the subject comes up you should make it clear that you are currently planning on a seasonal/short-term job, assuming that the particular company really has seasonal hires.

However, a lot depends on the corporate culture. Some companies hire people for very specific positions and it is very hard to move from those positions except in a very prescribed path. For retail that might be:

  • Stocking shelves (requires very little training)
  • Cashier (requires more training and some aptitude for customer service)
  • Customer Service
  • Store Manager
  • and then up into corporate management

In that type of company, it doesn't matter how much IT experience (or marketing or graphic design or any other specialized field that could be use elsewhere in the company) you have, you'll likely be on the standard path for a year or more, assuming you stick with the company. (You don't plan on sticking with the company, but it could happen.)

But there are other companies, particularly, in my experience, smallish companies (not "mom & pop", but perhaps 10 - 100 employees) where top management does a good job of recognizing talent and promoting it properly. This can include taking a stock clerk who has IT experience and moving them to the software development team (which in a small company could be: the old guy just retired, you're in charge of the web site and accounting software starting tomorrow), or taking someone with clear aptitude for sales and making them a salesperson, etc.

So keep your options open. Be upfront about your skills and objectives. Remember, retail, as much if not more than many other industries, depends on IT at every level. Retail might be just "seasonal stock clerk". It could also turn into an unexpected career twist.

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I certainly wouldn't broach the subject myself if I were in your shoes. However if they do bring it up themselves you could say something along the following the lines. Indeed you will keep looking for IT-related jobs. However for most of these jobs the whole interview/selection process will take at least a few weeks and after that there is usually no requirement to start immediately. So you can tell them you will at least stick around for a month or two. I guess for a seasonal job such a commitment might be sufficient.

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Do I let the employer know that?

I would say, this is the wrong question. What you should be asking is maybe more along these lines:

When they ask me in an interview, why I'm looking at retail positions with my IT background, and why would I stay in that job if something comes along that matches my background, what would be effective talking points?

Because they already know from your resume that the retail job is a departure for you, and that maybe you're only looking at it due to having a hard time. It's already a given that you will go for a better paying job that matches your background, if it is available.

Probably, if they consider you for the position at all, they want to be assured that you won't just suddenly quit at the drop of hat, giving some retail manager 30 minutes to find another person to work your shift, kind of thing.

If they ask questions probing into that area, you have to be honest and say that if you're given the opportunity of the retail work to help you through a hard time, you will be grateful for that and move on in the best possible way that causes the least amount of disruption, with decent notice, and that you commit to working for at least a solid N months. Or something of that sort. Basically they will probably want some commitment signals from you.

Nobody wants to hear some obviously false song and dance that you really prefer a lower-paying retail job with worse work conditions than your previous IT stints.

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