In today’s job market, one of the biggest challenges is underemployment. There is no feeling like working in a field or industry that doesn't fully utilize your skills or pay you as well as you would like. Although unemployment rates have decreased, according to Monster.com, 22 million Americans consider themselves underemployed. Underemployment, while not always easy to define generally refers to workers who feel they are underpaid for the skill or education they have obtained in the past. The most common method of measuring underemployment is by the number of individuals with bachelor’s degrees who work in fields during the five years after graduation that typically don’t require the level of education they have obtained. In today’s job market this is more common than we know and can range from the college graduate who has a degree, but works in a fast food chain in a non-management role to the high level executive who goes from a Corporate Vice President to mid-level management in order to survive financial headwinds.
I fully understand this challenge as someone who worked a second job as a security guard due to a 25k pay cut a few years ago. At that moment, the two masters degrees I earned or management experience did not matter. My first priority was to maintain my standard of living, pay my bills and to feel safe financially. When I decided to take the decrease in pay, I thought some income is better than no income until I realized the drastic difference between my first pay check and my previous checks from the company before. Although discouraged and tired as the second job caused me to work seven days a week, I found ways to make my stay valuable. That is the real key to stay valuable, in which I listed 4 keys below.
Gain as many skills as possible- Your career search today should focus on the skills you are gaining. Take advantage of stretch opportunities and document those additional skills that you are learning. In my career workshops, I’ve heard “If I am getting paid less, I am only doing what my job requires”, but that is the wrong outlook on the underemployment. My book GET IN THE DOOR talks about how you can leverage your stretch opportunities in more detail.
Plan your next move- Strategically think about what you want your next opportunity to look like. How can you meet individuals who can help you? Where are those people? What company are you targeting next and what can you do to differentiate yourself from the other candidates? What can you learn in your current position that will aid you in your next position.
Market your new skills- Talk about your new skills to your network or highlight a project you completed on LinkedIn. Place your new skills on your resume. These new skills could possibly help you elevate where you are at or in a new position.
Believe in your next step- Now, it is up to you to work your plan, apply, and believe. When you believe, the possibilities are endless.
I hope this helps you beat the battle of underemployment.
Jerry T. Myers is the Author of GET IN THE DOOR: 7 Keys to Maximizing Your Career Search and a writer of provocative books that change the outlook of job seekers including high school graduates, college graduates and mature professionals. GET IN THE DOOR is sold wherever books are sold.