By Tracey Paliath, Esq., Director, Economic Services
As the job market opens up ever so slightly from the height of the economic downturn, I encounter more and more people who are glad to say that they have a job, but that it does not meet their needs. One woman really likes her job, but it’s only part-time and she needs full time hours to pay the bills. Some people are happy to have income coming in, but want to work in their chosen field, such as law or teaching, rather than in retail sales or waiting tables – especially since they’re paying for degrees they earned in order to do that work.
With so much attention being paid to the unemployed, it can be easy to forget about the underemployed. But this ever-growing segment of the working population needs guidance on how to move from “under” employment to “full” employment. At JCS, we offer three key pieces of advice to the underemployed:
1.) Put 100% effort into the job you have, even if it’s not the job you need or want to have. Why? First, you never know when a position that better meets your needs will open up at your company. You don’t know what your employer’s business plans are. Maybe you have a degree in education, but are working as a receptionist. If you’re upbeat, pleasant with customers, and pay attention to detail, the right person in the company might notice and offer you an opportunity to move into the training department teaching customer service skills at the company’s five local locations. Things like this do happen, because employers would rather hire someone they already know and trust for new positions. But they only happen for people who put their best foot forward every day –not for people who are moping around telling everyone in earshot, “I can’t believe I went to college to do THIS.” Even if you don’t get a chance like this, you will need an excellent reference for when you are about to land the right job for you. Having your most recent employer speak highly of you is incredibly valuable for job seekers.
2.) Make sure your employer knows that you are interested in moving up or getting more hours. “Alex” (not his real name) was working part-time. He came in to see his JCS career coach one day all excited because “Sara,” who worked the same job but on a full-time basis, was leaving. Alex figured he’d be given the full-time job when Sara left. But wait a minute! Alex was just sitting and waiting…he never told his employer he wanted the full-time hours, so the employer posted the job as two part-time positions when Sara left. We worked with Alex on how to approach his employer to express his interest in the full-time position, and how to avoid this type of passive approach to managing his career. And yes, Alex did get the full-time job in the end, but the employer first interviewed the candidates who applied for the part-time positions, so there was a little nail-biting around here! More importantly, if you are doing a great job (see #1) and your employer knows you are underemployed (see #2), your employer just might pass along information about other opportunities that come up through his/her professional network. Knowing that they might not be able to hold on to you for the long haul, they’d like to help you (and help one of their business partners) by making a match!
3.) Now that you’ve established with your employer that you are a valuable employee looking for an increased employment opportunity, don’t sit by and wait for something to happen. Continue to look for jobs, armed with knowledge about what types of work environments, management structures, scheduling, or specialty areas best fit your employment needs. Use that information to find something that is a better long term fit. You are most likely to find a job when you have one — even if it is not the job you hoped for — because it tells an employer that you have a strong work ethic and don’t think you are “above” any type of work. These characteristics make you an asset to any organization.
JCS career coaches and employment specialists have a lot of experience helping people who are underemployed to navigate their unique job search situation. They’d love to help you, too!
By Tracey Paliath, Esq., Director, Economic Services, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about JCS Career services click here or call 410-466-9200.