By Marsha Gozhansky, Career Coach
Unemployment is a word that people are used to hearing. The definition is pretty clear. If someone is out of work, then they are unemployed. These days a new word that has entered the vernacular: underemployment. The definition for this is a little less clear, but still pretty alarming. When someone is underemployed, they are in a job that does not completely fit their needs. They may be overqualified or underpaid, they might be working a part time job when they really need a full time position, they may be settling because that’s all they can get while the bills at home keep piling up.
There are lots of different definitions and interpretations of underemployment but one thing is clear – it’s pervasive in our society. The Economic Policy Institute estimates total underemployed population for this country hovers around 23 million. That’s more than the total population of Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania combined.
The reality is that in 2014, the job market is still NOT where we would like it to be. A weak job market may mean few jobs in your field. So people are being forced to take jobs for which they are over qualified. Though Baltimore has a relatively strong job market for many skilled candidates, the unemployment rate is still 8.3% according to the Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning.
Another reason that people are underemployed is that sometimes, you just need to take any job ASAP to feed your family and pay the bills. This isn’t always a bad thing. Many employers only want to hire someone who they know is working—it shows fortitude that you will do anything to support your family. That’s a value that employers appreciate.
At the JCS Career Center, we frequently see people who have taken jobs that they don’t love or are not using all their skills. The key is to take what you love and find a job that fits your personality and your skill set. Are you a “great communicator” and working in a job where you are typing in figures all day? Maybe, you could transition into a position in a bank where you could use your “figures” experience and communicate with customers.
Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back and identify your skills. You can assess their value in the job market by doing informational interviewing. Think about the people you know and meet with them to discuss how they got into their position. If you need additional experience, perhaps, you could volunteer or shadow someone who is doing that type of work.
As a Career Coach, I say take a job even if it is not what you would like to do in the future. If it’s economically feasible, stay on the job for at least 6 months to a year to avoid looking like you’re job hopping. Then, as you start looking for another job, you’ve already been earning money, maintaining your skills and supporting your family—all really good things that are worth patting yourself on your back for a good job that is well done.
Another advantage of taking a job that is less than your ideal is that you will be able to avoid a gap on your resume–which is always a red flag to the employers. If you work hard and are valued in this position, there is always a possibility to get promoted. I advise new graduates to get internships through all the years in school, volunteer or take a part time job. That’s how you build up your resume and earn experience.
While no one wants to be in this situation, remember that, in most cases, it’s better to be underemployed than not employed at all.
By Marsha Gozhansky, Career Coach, JCS Career Center
JCS offers a full range of career services. For more information about the JCS Career Center click here or call 410-466-9200.