What To Do If You’re Underemployed

One of the realities afflicting many in the current job market is the fact that underemployment is a big issue.

While it’s true that unemployment is still something that weighs on many, there are also plenty of workers who are underemployed. The underemployed are usually over-qualified for their jobs, since they can’t find work in their chosen fields, at pay rates that reflect their skills and expertise.

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My husband is currently underemployed. He’s an adjunct professor, but he should have a full-time job. In fact, he does the work of a full-time instructor, but is only paid about 1/3 of what a beginning professor should make. He helps students with their projects and he spends more time with them than many full-time professors. He also teaches between nine and 12 credits a semester.

Others are underemployed as well. There are those with advanced degrees working in coffee shops, and people with years of experience in their fields doing seasonal retail work.

So, if you are underemployed, what can you do?

Start a Side Hustle

One of the best things you can do is start a side hustle.

If you are mostly worried about the money, a side hustle can help you earn a little bit more so that you have what you need to move forward with your finances.

Depending on the way you are underemployed, this can be a great way to fill your time as well. In many cases, if you’re underemployed, you probably aren’t working 40 hours a week. You can use some of that downtime to start a side hustle.

Keep a Hand in with an Internship or Volunteer Work

If you are concerned about the impact your underemployment is going to have on your resume, consider doing an internship or volunteer work. No, you aren’t going to get paid for this work, but you do have something for your resume. This something shows that you have been making efforts to remain marketable, and that you are still active in worthwhile endeavors. Having a little extra something to show on your resume can be a great way to remain an attractive candidate.

My husband volunteers his time helping students prepare papers for presentation at conferences and for publication. As a result, he is listed as an author, and it helps his vitae. It also shows that he is still active in his field, which is important when looking for a job in academia.

Continue Applying for Other Jobs

Don’t give up on applying for jobs if you are underemployed. You need to stay on top of the situation as much as possible.

Keep networking and keep putting in applications for jobs that you are interested in. My husband has been reluctant to apply for many jobs, since he likes where we live now, and he keeps hoping that the university will hire him on as more than an adjunct. However, he’s starting to see that might not happen, and he’s started updating his info and leveraging contacts for the application process.

It’s not fun to be underemployed, but if you want to chance the circumstances, you need to keep working hard, and looking for networking opportunities that can lead to a new job.

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Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger. She writes for a number of personal finance blogs, including Planting Money Seeds. She has a M.A. in journalism, and is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger. Miranda lives Utah, where she enjoys spending her free time reading, traveling and playing with her son and husband.

Last Edited: 21st November 2013


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  1. says

    The side hustle advice is a great one, and it is becoming really popular in the financial blogosphere. I was just reading the blog of a man in Washington D.C. who makes $2000 a month selling used cell phones. Finding a job has to be your first priority, but while you are waiting making some money is nothing to scoff at.

  2. says

    It is also a good idea to continue training / learning in your field. A friend of mine started taking courses at a community college after graduation and enough transferred to a major university that she wound up being able to get her MBA at a much lower cost. This was before online programs were so prevalent, so I image it is even easier now to fit into a schedule that includes a job.

  3. lucy says

    I totally agree with you that if you are underemployed you can just view your self as an intern or volunteer as you keep hunting for better paying jobs.

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