We know underemployment is hard to measure. Even the government has difficulty measuring it.
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But that said, you certainly know when you are unemployed. It's when you have a job, and it pays the bills for the most part, but your talents are worth so much more.
Getting out of the underemployment trap requires a shift in mindset. You have to understand your day job as the one that produces a check, and your night job as the search for your truly desired opportunity. It will be hard to manage both tasks at once, but you can't disengage from either your current job or your job search. Making the most of your time is vital to your success.
Perhaps you've already noticed that the job hoppers today tend to be the ones who win spikes in salaries and gain new marketable skills. Millennials and Gen. Z-ers have already figured this out.
You want a sustainable opportunity where you feel useful and fairly compensated – and you can have it. Just do these eight things to help you leverage your period of underemployment to your advantage:
1. Create Solutions to Build on Over Time
Employers are looking for people who can apply new solutions to their business problems. To compete in the job market, you must be one of these people. The modern job search is not about tricks and tips, but about strategies and your network. Don't look for jobs; look for opportunities to contribute and create your network. In time, this will lead to the career you want.
2. Cultivate Your Voice
Don't be afraid of positioning yourself as an authority as your network grows. As you gain more experience collaborating with people who are more experienced than you, your voice will increasingly stand out. Learn to speak when expected, listen when it's unexpected, and master both when they are critical to your brand.
3. Pay the Price
I am not suggesting you take one for the team, nor that you make yourself a martyr. Rather, what I mean is that there will be a cost to you of some kind. There are no shortcuts to career success, so expect pain, setbacks, and some discomfort as you search for the right job.
4. Use Your Strengths and Accomplishments as Motivation
Many things will pull you in different directions, but the core of your efforts must always be your desire to optimize your contributions to your industry. Your achievements can serve as daily reminders to motivate you.
5. Surround Yourself With People Who Will Support You
Don't consider it a weakness to have people to remind you of your mission. All of us need people who can help lift us up when we can't lift ourselves.
6. Be Uncomfortable With Comfort During Underemployment
Persistence means trying different ways to open doors you find closed – or even break them down if need be. Don't settle or wait for someone else to open the door for you. It will become a way of life, and you'll pay for it in mediocrity.
7. Reconcile With Yourself
Underemployment can be quite lonely, even if you're around others who face the same challenge. You may feel alienated by people who wonder why you're still "in that job."
Surround yourself with those who understand what you're doing. You need to hear the voices who are encouraging, truthful, and patient. Sometimes, there may be no such voices. In those instances, you have to reconcile with and rely on yourself.
8. Master Your Craft
You're in it for the long haul, not just trying to "break through" to the next job. You should be crafting a body of work that serves as evidence of your value. Build a network of people with whom you can share ideas and exchange value. Master your craft through constant work.
Underemployment is not a sentence you are obligated to accept. It is a battle you can win. It is a season of life, and you can weather the storms it brings by proving your uniqueness.
Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, the host and producer of "The Voice of Job Seekers" podcast, and the founder of the blog by the same name.
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