ACTION: Keep honing your marketable skills.
Unemployment numbers are much easier to track than underemployment numbers. Being underemployed is pretty subjective, but in today’s economy, sometimes even people with graduate degrees are happy to get a check as an entry-level retail associate at a department store. That, my friends, is underemployment.
A Pew Research Center study found that among 18-34 year olds, 49% have taken a job they didn’t want just to pay the bills, and 24% have taken unpaid internships just to gain the appropriate experience.
Life happens. You might find that you need to take whatever you can get just to keep your cellphone and lights on even if the job has little to nothing to do with your past experience and educational background. It’s advised that you save as much money as possible and keep your marketable skills sharp. That means not only the usual step of going to networking events within your industry, but also being an active member of your profession’s organizations. Get in there, help out on committees and chime in during meetings.
If you’re a journalist, join the local chapter of NABJ. If you’re an engineer, get to know your fellow NSBE enthusiasts. Stay in the loop and take advantage of conventions, courses and workshops (especially free ones) that help you sharpen your skills.
ACTION: Simple: Leave.
You’ve tried all of the previous tactics and nothing has worked. You feel like you’ve done everything you possibly can and you are still desperately unhappy at your job. Guess what? It’s time to go. But don’t just step out on faith. Do your due diligence and hit the ground running.
“If you are not growing in your job, not moving forward, get out of that job,” Nelson says. “Know your value. It is so key, particularly when you are young, to make wise choices early in your career and not get stuck.”
Oftentimes, when you are unhappy at your job, your job feels the same way about you, and that’s what Samuels learned. “My layoff was very mutual and timely because I was unhappy and bored and they were unhappy that I wouldn’t support their initiatives and plans that I didn’t agree with,” says project engineer Samuels, who now works at a large corporation in a well-resourced, team atmosphere. She was fortunate to get a two-month, paid transition period in advance of her position being eliminated, and she used that time to go job hunting full throttle.
“Finding a job was my job. It was two months of hardcore interviewing via phone, e-mail and in-person,” Samuels recalls. “I used LinkedIn and my alumni groups to get the inside edge on landing interviews. I applied to dozens of jobs, got several interviews and even turned down a few offers.”
The moral of the story is, be in constant contact with your mentors and make sure your social media profiles, resume and skills are up to date. You are in charge of your career, so when you get stuck, it’s up to you to dig out and keep moving in the right direction.