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Underemployment Strategies : What to Do When You're Underemployed in Your Career

The ABCs of Advancing Your Career from a Position of Underemployment


Millions of Americans are underemployed in 2009. The government officially defines "underemployed" people as those who desire full-time employment, but who can only find a part-time job.

The unofficial definition of underemployment also includes people who have accepted positions for which they are overqualified because they couldn't find anything better. Sometimes any job is better than no job.

While there might be a small amount of comfort knowing that you are not the only underemployed person in the U.S., the situation is no less frustrating just because there's a large number of people who are sharing it. Misery may love company, but most underemployed people are still miserable with their diminished positions.

Instead of looking for a new job, many people are finding it easier to transform their underemployment situation into something that is practically custom-made for their talents, skills, and experience.

In fact, surviving and transcending underemployment in America can be as simple as "A-B-C."

"A" is for "Accept" - Accept the Position

Filling out the paperwork and signing the W-2 doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve accepted your new position. Accepting a position for which you are overqualified means letting go of the circumstances which led you to be underemployed, and making peace with the gap between the job you want and the job you have.

Everyone you work with will know if you’re just tolerating your work situation, and that will make them less tolerant of you. Your first job in underemployment is to find a way to embrace your situation completely in order to make the best of what might eventually be a really positive career move.

"B" is for "Be" - Be Willing and Be Helpful

By definition, if you’re underemployed, you’re too good for the job that you’re filling. It’s okay to remember this, but it’s not good to remind other people about it. Be willing to complete tasks, no matter how menial, and offer assistance to others with their menial tasks as well. An air of superiority will help you create enemies. An attitude of willingness and helpfulness will help you create allies and opportunities.

"C is for "Chip" - Chip In

The best way to find a job in which you can use your talents, skills, and abilities is to use your talents, skills, and abilities with the job you’re in. Demonstrate your graphic design talent by creating a department newsletter. Utilize your powerpoint skills to help your boss get ready for a presentation. Volunteer your copy writing experience to the marketing team when they have an impossible deadline. Contribute your project management expertise to an Employee Appreciation Day.

If you’re willing to contribute, you’ll be able to find or create opportunities to showcase what you have to offer the organization. Just don’t forget to complete your own job responsibilities too!

"D" is for "Do" - Do Your Job

No matter how boring, mundane, and unchallenging your duties may seem, there are people who need you to perform those tasks, otherwise you wouldn’t have been hired. The only thing worse than getting stuck in a job for which you are overqualified, is getting fired from a job for which you are overqualified. So while you might still be looking for a better position, don’t forget to adequately fill the position you’re in.

"E" is for "Exceed" - Exceed Expectations

When you’re underemployed, it’s easy to fall into a self-defeating “they don’t pay me enough” state of mind. From that perspective, it seems perfectly logical to decide that you’ll do more when you get paid more. Raises and promotions, however, generally aren’t used as performance bribes. Rather, raises and promotions are generally given out as performance rewards.

Those who do what is expected of them are rewarded with a paycheck and a chance to earn more wages tomorrow. Those who do more than is expected of them get more in return. When you actively look for opportunities to exceed the expectations of your co-workers and managers, your efforts will be noticed and appreciated. Above and beyond behaviors can help propel you above and beyond underemployment.

"F" is for "Find" or "Fashion" - Find or Fashion Your Future

You might not be hired into the perfect job, but that doesn’t mean that a right fit job doesn’t exist for you within the organization. Once you’re in the company door, you’ll be well positioned to explore future possibilities. You might be able to find a position that suits you better, or if the right fit job doesn’t exist, you might be able to fashion a position for yourself that the company doesn’t yet know it needs.

While it’s natural for the underemployed to be focused on the future, you’ll want to make sure you don’t come off as overly aggressive or opportunistic. Professional internal networking can move you forward. Pushing your own personal agenda can get you moved out.

"G" is for "Give" - Give Respect

You might be more educated than your manager, more experienced than the department head, and more accomplished than the CEO in your underemployment situation. It’s important, however, to honor positions of authority and give respect to the people who are filling them. No one will respect your experience if you don’t first respect theirs.

"H" is for "Have" - Have Gratitude

It’s easy to feel battered and victimized by recessionary injustices. People who are underemployed often also feel frustrated, angry, depressed, or hopeless. While those around you may understand your feelings, they’re not going to want to hang around them for an indefinite period of time.

Focusing on what you have left instead of what you have lost can help lift you out of your funk and give you an optimistic outlook. An attitude of gratitude will give you a better vibe, set you up for a professional turnaround, and, in general, make it easier for you to sleep at night.

More Retail Career Strategies:
  1. About.com
  2. Industry
  3. Retail Industry
  4. Retail Jobs & Careers
  5. Recessionary Career Strategies: Tips for Succeeding in a Job When You're Overqualified and Underemployed

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