Productivity · Underemployment

Coping With Underemployment

Underemployment is frustrating. There’s really no other way to describe it.

But underemployment doesn’t need to define you.

You are so much more than what you do for a living. It’s a rough economy and university degrees alone aren’t enough to land you your dream job these days. But I’m not going to lecture you on how important it is to keep looking, to network, and to try to manage your debt (today, anyway). This blog entry is about coping with the fact that you’re underemployed. 

If I can take this smartphone photo of myself making an awkward turtle gesture, you can probably accomplish the seemingly impossible task of overcoming underemployment ;)

Honestly, there are days where underemployment will get the best of you. Heck, I’ve had a day or two where I’m so defeated that all I manage to do is lay in my bed watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and IMing the one friend who’ll listen to me whine on and on while I feel generally miserable for myself. Seriously, I can sometimes be that girl. But lately those days are few and far between because I’m learning to focus on the positive aspects of being underemployed.

If there’s one thing that Grey’s Anatomy has taught me, it’s that “We make our own destinies“. Our actions are not the only thing that define us, our outlook also plays a huge role in how far we’ll go.

It’s so easy to indulge in feeling bad for yourself when you’re stuck in a part-time position or some frustrating retail job that’s well outside your area of expertise (check and check for me), but it’s also pretty easy to remind yourself that underemployment doesn’t have to be permanent. But you’ve got to remember that you’re not settling for less, you’re just in transition – you’re still applying for jobs, working hard to gain positive attention at your part-time gigs, and looking for ways to boost your resume.

Every day you’re coming a little bit closer to landing that entry-level position you’ve been dreaming of. The problem is that you can’t see this. You can’t see opportunity on the horizon, just more uncertainty. It can take a lot of time for the right opportunity to show itself, and in the meantime you’re going to feel like you’re floundering through life. That’s normal.

I love flatfish. And fish metaphors ;)

Underemployment is not the worst thing in the world. As it turns out, you’re probably never going to have this much free time again. Ever. So why not spend some of this free time enjoying yourself? Or spend time helping out your family and friends – you’ve got nothing better to do! Have a life outside of the exhausting search for you’re real job. And take time to consider this: what is your dream job?  For me, having this time to think and write has given me time to construct an entirely new outlook for my future. The possibilities seem endless!

Underemployment sucks, but it doesn’t have to make your life suck! Just keep hanging in there and try to maintain a positive outlook. You might try making yourself an online portfolio, an inspiration board, or start a linkedin account to get yourself networking. Just don’t lose your focus!

Opportunity is out there… I just know it.

Are you underemployed/unemployed? How do you cope?



12 thoughts on “Coping With Underemployment

  1. great post!

    I was underemployed in London, selling over-priced baby clothes and dreaming of working in publishing. Then I decided to call it a day and move to Portugal, with no clue what I was going to do. Now I’m a freelance writer, and I’ve never been happier with my career choice.

    It’s just one of those things- you can’t really plan it, things just happen, so I’m just learning to go with it.

  2. This was very reassuring to read, recently I’ve been on a bit of a depression because I’ve been working in retail part time, losing more direction everyday. Job hunting has consumed my life and I’ve forgotten to have a life outside of it. Reading this has reminded me not to put my entire life on hold until I find a job, and to think about exploring new career possibilities.
    Thank you x x x

  3. I have been suffering from underemployment for about a month and a half and it is so frustrating! But I have been using my new found time to job hunt, go on long walks, and learn how to do some easy cooking. Although I’ve gone from about 32hrs/week down to less than 15,I’m using this as some “me” time. Do some stuff for myself, try some new things. And hopefully I can figure out what I want to do with my career once my trek through this dreaded Walmart job is done.

  4. Thanks, that is motivating. I am going to do a major change of country and job in year or so and I might have to go through this. It has been quite a daunting perspective… thanks.

    1. I’ve been out of college for over a 1.5 years and have not had good luck in landing my dream job. My job is one of those jobs you’d work until something else comes along. I have been thinking about getting something to where I can do a few things: (1) move out of my parent’s house, (2) get a newer vehicle, and (3) gain some independence. Not sure if a slight career change would be a bad thing if it can help me get those items off the checklist.

  5. Be glad you still have your health! I can’t work due to disability and I wouldn’t recommend it as a lifestyle. I try to keep occupied as I can’t stand doing nothing, even though my poor energy levels force me to more than I’d prefer. You’re so right about trying to stay positive and make the most of the time. Creativity is a great outlet for all kinds of frustration and it’s good to get outside into the fresh air as much as possible. I’m sure you’ll get there in the end, whether by the regular route or by forging your own path :)

    1. I was going to also suggest voluntary work as a good way to add skills and initiative to your CV while contributing to society, but I forgot, so I’m adding it now :)

      1. Knotrune–best advice volunteering. It boosts your mood and helps others. A win/win for both.

  6. Underemployment or unemployment are both frustrating. The best thing to do is to keep up a positive attitude. Another thing to do is join a job search networking support group. They are full of useful information and helps with your morale.

  7. In the same boat. The uncertainty is the killer. Not great for the self confidence either. Tough to focus on the important things like health and family.

  8. I cope by remembering what is free in my life… visiting family and friends, a fun date night, even thrifting at my local recycling center. I’m a recent grad with a heap of student loans, I work part time at a non profit for not much more than minimum wage. It’s frustrating with a masters degree, but blogs like this also remind me that I’ve worked hard and I do deserve a well-paying and fulfilling job. I’m not lazy or ill-adapted, I just graduated at a hard time, so I make the best of it, and use my free time to craft and find bargains, and remember that my relationships–not my wallet– are the most important part of my life.

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