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If you recently graduated from college, it’s likely that you had to take a job that you didn’t really want – if you could find one at all. In fact, 53% of recent graduates are “underemployed” or unemployed. You’re not alone, and you shouldn’t worry about it too much. Even if your job isn’t exactly demanding your full mental capacity, having one at all is a step in the right direction.
We hear a lot about unemployment statistics in the national news, but the statistics for underemployment are easily as important in telling the story of America’s economy. A person who is “underemployed” is working an hourly part-time job, but looking for full-time employment. Many of the underemployed in our country are recent college graduates who have reserved themselves to taking jobs that don’t even require a college degree. For example, someone who graduated last year with a degree in theater arts and now works as a bartender is underemployed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with underemployment – it is a tough job market for theater arts majors after all – but it’s certainly not an ideal situation.
How can you make the best of underemployment?
The important thing to remember when you have a job that is below your expected pay grade is that it doesn’t have to last forever. Think of underemployment as a welcome rest from the stresses of college life and a precursor to the stressful full-time job that you’ll have pretty soon. Enjoy it for a while, figure out why you’re underemployed, and then take the following steps to use it to your advantage:
Step 1: Refine your resume
Maybe you had some awesome internship experience in college that didn’t get you a job right away. Maybe you had unique experiences like studying abroad or running a radio show in college that you didn’t list on your resume before. Either way, take some time to go through your resume with a fine toothed comb and figure out what went wrong last time you applied for jobs in your major. Some college career centers may continue to offer help, or if you have to, you can hire a resume assistance service.
Step 2: Get out there and network
Set aside three to six hours every week to check out a new networking opportunity. Check with your local chamber of commerce, get an account on Meetup.com, and start joining Linkedin groups. You may even find that the best opportunities are right in your back yard. If you work at a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar, start getting to know your regular patrons. You never know when one might lead you to your first real job.
Step 3: Start to teach yourself something new
Take advantage of this period of your life to continue learning new things. Pick up an instrument, read a book, travel, or learn to golf. You might even get lucky. One time, I had an interview with a recruiter who saw on my resume that I went to Costa Rica for a service trip in high school. We spent half the time reminiscing as he had family from the same area, and I got offered the job.
Step 4: Be the best that you can be
Even if you’re underemployed, you can bet that your next employer will call your current boss before he hires you. Make sure that you do your work as well as you can, look for opportunities to get promotions, take your work seriously, and always respect those you work with and for. You never know when it could pay off big.
Step 5: Get creative
If you’ve got the time and resources, there is no limit to what you can do while you’re underemployed. Maybe your job search will turn you into an entrepreneur? Maybe it will allow you to go back to school for something completely different? Either way, enjoy it while you can. The real world isn’t as awesome as it’s cracked up to be anyway.