Underemployment: It’s On You


by Marissa Waldman, President at Brainard Strategy

Unemployment is at a significantly low level in the United States. While seemingly good news, a marketplace oversaturated with underemployment across all demographics is slowly but surely beginning to negatively impact this widely publicized spike in statistics.

For example, according to a report on NPR.com, “around 33 percent of college graduates are underemployed.” This means there are currently thousands of young upstarts not reaching their full potential in the national workplace and, unless big changes are made, this phenomenon could have grave consequences down the line.

Because we cannot expect enterprises at large to transform their recruiting practices to fit with individual goals, we must alter our own methods of seizing positions that enable growth and personal gratification.

Underemployment refers to the underutilization of an individual’s skill set and/or underpayment for services. It is not necessarily a reflection of one’s competency, but often a reflection of one’s personal drive. In this 24/7 world of competitive applications swirling in from talent pools both local and abroad, it can often seem like an impossible task to snag the jobs and roles we dream of. As a result, many of us become complacent in our current spots and allow our superiors, company directives or other external factors to dictate when, where and how we advance (or don’t).

Bottom line? Whether looking to move up in the organizational chart or start anew somewhere else, it is up to us — the candidates — to create the path ahead and not wait for others to create it for us.

From the point of view of an expert consultant working in corporate America, there is undoubtedly an endless stream of jobs to fit almost anyone looking to climb the ladder to leadership. With the right attitude, focus and game plan, the possibilities are endless. To avoid getting stuck in the rut of a dead-end job and maximize success when applying for the most coveted positions, we need to learn how to better recognize when we are settling and when to jump back into the fray.

When learning, growing or developing starts to take a backseat, there are almost always signs —we begin to count the hours until “quitting time” and dread Monday mornings as if they were the first day of school. Instead of merely collecting a paycheck and working for the weekend, the most promising future leaders are those who never stop exploring different options for maximum personal development and career satisfaction.

To advance in our careers, we need to be very clear on the work we want to be doing. This process requires conducting in-depth research as well as informational interviews with other professionals to ensure we are following the most fitting path for ourselves. Socializing and networking, whether online or at a local coffee shop, is the BEST way to get a handle on what is required and expected at certain organizations and in certain roles.

LinkedIn, for example, can be a great way to augment our research. It gives easy access to those we know and to others we would like to connect with. Exploring the site’s news feed, which offers individual stories and perspectives, can be a great aide in discovering opportunities where we will have the most impact. Another great resource is utilizing a mentor or someone from your personal “board of directors.” These people can offer expert advice, guide us to avoid the pitfalls of complacency and help with finding better roles within the company hierarchy.

At the end of the day, we know if we are being challenged or not. Real challenge comes with nerves, uneasiness and, hopefully, inspiration. To quote an anonymous expert in the field of executive coaching: “If you are not in a job where you feel like your butt cheeks are clenched, you aren’t learning and it might be time to give your career a boost by moving on.”  While change can be uncomfortable, embracing it is the only way to get ahead.

In the modern business landscape of 2018, we — the candidates — make our own luck. It is up to us to recognize our own opportunities and take control of our careers. After all, no one is going to do it for us.

 

Marissa Waldman is president of Brainard Strategy, responsible for day-to-day operations, as well as leading the company’s sales and marketing teams. Prior to joining Brainard Strategy, Waldman worked at Option One Mortgage Corporation, serving as a strategic liaison between sales executives and the learning and development department. In addition to conducting needs analyses and creating learning strategies to measurably support corporate goals, she managed all customer-facing education through the Option One University.

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