Breaking free from underemployment
Sam Wilson, November 20, 2014
Although underemployment may be preferable to unemployment, simply accepting the fact your array of skills are not being appreciated or put to good use is very damaging for your career prospects. While your current position may be helping you to pay the bills, it’s also limiting your career development as you’re prevented from exercising your skills and reaching your potential. Unfortunately, once you find yourself underemployed it can be difficult to rectify the situation. Here are five steps you can take to break free from underemployment.
Assess your current situation
First you need to ascertain whether you are truly underemployed, which involves deciphering your current job’s relevance to your career goal. For example, if your degree was in publishing your dream job may be an editor for a top magazine. If you’re working in a junior position for the local newspaper then you’re not underemployed, you’re simply working your way up the career ladder – everyone has to start somewhere. However, if you’re currently working as a sales advisor in a retail store then you are underemployed as you’re not reaching your potential in terms of the skills you’ve developed. Once you’ve identified your goal, create a plan of action on how you’re going to reach it.
Find a mentor
Now you’ve established where you are in your career and where you want to be, seek help from an expert in your field. A mentor or career coach can provide valuable advice on your action plan by giving their opinion and offering new ideas that could help you achieve the job you desire. Gaining an alternative, professional perspective can help you to see your situation more clearly and encourage you to reach your potential. www.mentormatchme.com is a useful resource.
Expand your skill set
The more you can develop your skill set while in your current role, the more you can add to your CV, which will help you significantly when you come to interviewing for that dream job. To improve or gain more skills related to the job you seek, research training courses that will help you to break into the industry you’re aiming for. For instance if you want a career in IT, take a relevant computer course to the specific role you’re looking to pursue. If you’re working part-time you may have time to complete a voluntary placement related to your industry, so you can gain a feel for the environment you wish to work in and determine whether it’s suitable for you. If you’re working full-time, consider volunteering for community projects outside of work hours, such as helping to organise local events.
Excel in your current role
Once you’ve realised you’re underemployed it can cause you to do the bare minimum. However, this will see you displeasing your current boss which will not only put off a potential employer, but could soon see you becoming unemployed. Therefore it’s important to maintain a positive attitude in your current role while you search for a new job. Focus on developing transferable skills such as communication, organisation and problem-solving. When you come to interview for your dream job you can show the potential employer that although you were underemployed for a time, you gained as much as possible from the role.
Network, network, network
The more extensive your network, the more likely it will provide you with a contact who has just the role you’re looking for or the advice you need to obtain it. Connect with your colleagues and clients on LinkedIn so relevant connections can be made with their networks too. Tell your friends and family that you’re searching for work in a particular field; you never know who they might be able to put you in touch with. If you communicate regularly (without harassing) with those in your network, you’ll encourage your contacts to think of you as soon as a position of relevance arises.