How to Avoid Being Underemployed With These 4 Tips

We’ve all been there before: you’re stuck in a job search for months, or even years, and finally, you receive the job offer you’ve been waiting for. However, it’s slightly under the salary range you would typically accept, and the job requirements don’t match your deep level of knowledge or skill set. What should you do? 

In any job search, an employment offer is the exciting start of a new life and career. However, the allure of a new job can also possibly lead you down the underemployment path if you’re not careful. Underemployment is defined as a few different scenarios: a job in which you’re underpaid, underworked (not receiving enough hours) or asked to do tasks that are below your qualifications. Although underemployment can manifest itself in different forms, all can have an effect in your happiness and motivation. While the new job offer may seem attractive, if it meets any of the above criteria, it’s in your best interest to pass.

The good news is underemployment can be easily avoided. While it’s easy to go with the flow in your career, it’s necessary to train yourself to recognize underemployment before it happens. By becoming proactive about your career plans and staying true to your skillset, you can avoid the unemployment trap and actually love your job. 

1. Have a focused job search. 

In any job search, the easy route is often the “spray and pray” method, which involves sending your resume to every possible employer and hoping something will come back to you. In most job searches, especially those that continue for longer than expected, the easiest application techniques pull people in. (Who doesn’t love the LinkedIn “easy apply” option?) However, dispersing your resume everywhere can feel like you’ve reached a great deal of companies, but it also means you’ll likely end up being forced to interview with jobs that don’t align with your desired position. 

The “spray and pray” method usually involves little to no attention to job descriptions, which can be one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker makes. When the goal is to apply to all jobs that include “marketing,” the job duties that fall under this title could vary from sales to social media and everything in between. And while it’s great to believe you can be adaptable to any skill, a job that lies completely outside of your skillset can end up making you feel unsuccessful or overwhelmed with the type of tasks required. A focused job search will help you to hone in on specific jobs while providing you with a sense of confidence in the application process. Advertisement

Focusing your search will involve extra time on your part, but it will yield much greater results in the end. Try searching jobs that are specific to your particular skills rather than those under your general domain. (For example, search “supply chain” rather than “business”) This will help you be sure you’re only applying to jobs that you can handle and are likely to enjoy more. Reach out to any identified recruiters related to the job with questions or to connect about the position; this will help you to stand out from the other candidates by showing increased interest in the open role. Finally, while working in Hawaii or another dream location may sound fun, searching in places that you’re sure you’re able to sustain a living will ensure you’re not accepting jobs simply due to their location. 

2. Align your LinkedIn profile with your goals.

One of the most common pitfalls that professionals fall into is failing to update their LinkedIn profile. While it may seem like just another social media app, LinkedIn is actually a helpful way to avoid underemployment. As an active user, you’ll build better professional connections and receive notifications about jobs related to your field. 

Another perk of LinkedIn: many recruiters consistently use it to find candidates. To attract recruiters looking within your particular field, research keywords that are related to your field and add them to your profile’s bio. By adding relevant keywords, you’ll become more visible to recruiters looking to fill positions specifically in your field. However, tread with caution: some recruiters will still reach out with jobs that aren’t related to your field, so keep a discerning eye when receiving offers to apply. 

3. Be picky in jobs.

Let’s face it: everyone needs money, and at some point in the job search any salary will begin to look good. However, jumping at the first offer can be a bad idea and lead you into a job that is underpaid or not aligned with your qualifications. It seems counterintuitive to reject a job offer, especially in the current market, but being picky with jobs will help you eventually land one you truly enjoy. 

If a job seems too good to be true (for example, unusually high salary for entry-level tasks), then you should probably pass. There’s a good chance that your gut feeling is right, and it’s possible the company is exaggerating the tasks or potential salary to attract candidates to a less-than-desirable job. Don’t worry: there are plenty of amazing open roles to come, and you’ll be better off for it. 

4. Professional development/reskilling is always an option. 

Underemployment doesn’t only exist within the beginning of a career: it can happen at any time, in any job. A few signs you’re underemployed in your current job is feeling under-utilized in terms of skill, being underpaid or working less than usual (under the direction of supervision). But you don’t have to feel stuck in the cycle- professional development and reskilling can provide an opportunity to rise above.  

Professional development can give you an edge in your current job (or future job search) and provide the opportunity to hone in on desired skills or expand your skill set. Some organizations offer opportunities for development so that employees don’t need to pay and can receive this enrichment to the benefit of the team. Development can help you to improve your results at work and, in turn, increase your chances of moving into a more suitable job or receiving increased pay. 

There are certain situations in which professional development can’t overcome underemployment; if you’ve been feeling stuck for a while in your current job or are finding it extremely difficult to nail a job in your field, it may be time to reskill. Reskilling is defined as learning a new skill, which allows individuals to take on new careers or roles. Luckily, learning a new skill doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, and there are plenty of resources that can make reskilling accessible for every professional.

There’s no doubt that at some point, most professionals experience underemployment in some form, but it doesn’t have to feel like a death sentence to your career. From the beginning of a job search to the middle of a career, there are plenty of ways to avoid and overcome underemployment, with the most effective strategy being to trust your instincts and put your professional value above anything else.

This article was written by Alex Sixt, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert solutions division leading the future of work and skills-based economy. If you’re struggling to find, vet, and hire the right Experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform to help you hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of Experts ready to work for you.

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