Being underemployed means your that while yes you’re working, you’re in a position that isn’t what you are qualified to do based on your education and experience. It’s likely that you are also underpaid, as you’re working in a job quite possibly that is in another field and at an entry-level salary, because you’re not entirely qualified in that second field for a more senior position.
Still, it’s a job. Needing money to stay afloat and pay some bills, you’ve taken this job on a short-term basis. The good thing about the job is that it keeps you busy and there’s less time to sit alone at home brooding over your lack of success. It’s also good for the self-esteem in that an employer picked you up and hired you so your skills are validated. The people you meet on a daily basis don’t know about your situation and let’s face it, not many of them care quite frankly. Everybody has a story and while you’ve got yours, they’ve got theirs. That’s just the fact of the matter.
Now on the downside, while you’ve got some immediate income, the income itself isn’t sustainable; well not for the lifestyle you had or the lifestyle you’re aiming for. You’re living tight, paying the bills to get by but there’s not much of a social life with such a small reserve of what’s referred to as discretionary spending. Another downside is the work itself; this isn’t what you went to school for in all probability.
Now while you’ve taken on this job for the positives; including filling up a broadening gap on your resume had you not taken the job, you’re worried about the possibility of getting lulled into this new job and not having the time or energy to work hard at getting back into the field you went to school for. You don’t want to be the poster child for the person with two University degrees who is now flipping burgers for a living.
Okay so what to do. Well first of all, the decision to take a job sometimes referred to as a survival job or transition job is or was, yours alone to make. As there are pros and cons, you have to take the responsibility and accountability for having made the decision to accept this job based solely on your own unique circumstances.
I’ve known some career seekers who actually switched to job seekers and it worked out wonderfully. You see an entry-level job that requires less qualifications than the career position you’ve been going for over a long period can actually be a huge positive. There’s much less stress for example dressing a submarine sandwich or fitting someone for a new pair of shoes than there is scratching your way alone in the financial sector while managing an investment portfolio for a firms clients. That drop in stress could be just what the doctor ordered, and this can give your brain a chance to turn down the constant need to be checking stock markets and interest rates.
Now before anyone jumps on entry-level service industry jobs as being more than I’m pointing them out to be, let me say that learning the ropes is just as critically important to the owners of these franchises and businesses. I used to be a shoe and clothing salesperson; but selling shoes and clothes was much less stressful than making decisions as a Social Services Caseworker that could result in someone not getting the funds they expected and being out on the street – literally.
If you are underemployed, you’ve got to find for yourself that fine line between taking a transition or survival job just long enough to ground yourself and not too long so it becomes your new normal. You want to give the employer who hired you a return on their investment in you, both in terms of time on their payroll and interest and commitment to their success. At the same time, you do want to focus some of your energy and time to getting on with your career; and at the moment you’re not in the right employment sector.
Get in a routine and commit to it. That could mean looking for work every morning until your afternoon shift, or it could mean committing to 3 hours of job search activity at some point in your day. Whatever you choose, a regular commitment will keep you from missing the perfect opportunity. Don’t think I mean just looking at want ads either. Today there’s online learning, night school, webinars, social media platforms that promote discussion and networking. There’s a lot you could do beyond just looking for job openings.
One of the most useful things you could be doing right now is initiating and nurturing new relationships with people you don’t know at the moment but who work for the company or companies you’d most like to target. Connecting with someone today and asking them for a job tomorrow isn’t going to work with most people. However, connecting with someone today and cultivating that relationship to the point where you seek out some assistance as a job opening appears will likely mean your contact is happier to pass on information to help you out.
Being underemployed but working has its pros and cons. It’s up to you and you alone to decide what’s right for you. Remember however that lyric of the Beatles that goes, “Get back to where you once belonged.”