Dear Matt: I've been out of work for a long time. I'm at the point where I'm considering changing careers or taking a job that pays much less and is not directly related to my current field. Will taking a job that is a step back hurt me in the future?

Matt: Tim Cotroneo, an account manager at MDS Staffing (, says that in this competitive work environment and shaky economy, employers are aware that candidate's need to pay their bills and do whatever they can to make ends meet.

Just because it's considered a fill-in job, it doesn't mean it has to be just that. Look at it as a new opportunity, a new chance. "Your job outside the field becomes not only an opportunity to network with new people, but it may also become a position and a job field you really enjoy," said Cotroneo.

Kami Schneiderman, regional vice president of Robert Half International (, offered some tips for those considering a move such as this:

Gather feedback. Before making such a decision, consult with contacts within your network. Have any of them made such a move? How would they view a candidate they were interviewing who had made such a move?

Consider temporary work. It's a great way to enhance your skill set and earn an income while continuing your job search. Also, temporary work is frequently a common path to full-time employment and an important option to explore.

Explain yourself. If you do make a career change, be prepared to explain how this new role supported your career development. Perhaps you had access to new technologies and training or it provided an opportunity to expand your network?

Find value. If you've taken a pay cut, look for additional means of value in your new position. Is there a higher purpose of the job; are you helping people?

Own your decision. Be confident with the choice you've made. If not, your performance on the job may suffer.

The bottom line is this: There is no drawback to taking a position that may be perceived as lateral or a step back, said Patrick Foss, CEO of Minnetonka-based ThinkTalent Human Capital Partners (

"Just because you take a job outside your field, it doesn't mean your job search within your field/industry has to stop," said Foss. "Work at it as you would if you were still not working."

Do you have an employment related or job search question for Matt? E-mail him today at All responses will be in the paper and no names will be used to protect your privacy.