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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

5 Top Tips for Recent Grads Dealing with Underemployment

For This I Went To College?
 (Photo credit: Mike Licht,
ROJS News & Radio LIVE Guest Blog
By Patricia Garza
The blogosphere is veritably littered with articles that discuss different ways young people can improve their job search strategy.

While unemployment, especially among recent grads, is a huge economic and social problem in these United States, there aren't that many articles out there advising young professionals who do have jobs, but are chronically underemployed. In some ways, underemployment can be more disheartening than not having a job altogether.

You may wonder, "Why did I even get a college degree if I'm working a job that only requires high school skills?" It's a good question, and a tough one to answer. The following are a few tips for dealing with underemployment and working toward something better.

1. Understand that you aren't the only one.

Sometimes it can feel as though maybe all your friends have their dream jobs, but it's important to know that you are one of millions of young people who are underemployed. It's not your fault that you can't find a job that more closely matches your skills and interests. Graduating into a crippled economy means that most of those in your age cohort are in exactly the same spot as you. For more information about youth underemployed, check out this Economic Policy Institute article

2. Look into taking mini-courses or classes that can expand your skill set as you work.
Just because you're underemployed doesn’t mean that you can't seek different learning opportunities elsewhere. The most discouraging part about completing a college degree is that you can graduate without having learned any concrete job skills. And you aren't learning any new skills on the job as you would have had you graduated into a healthy economy. Instead, look for certification programs or even online courses that can teach you specific, high-demand skills like computer programming, web design, project management systems, etc. 

3. Divorce yourself from the mindset that your identity is a reflection of your current employment.

It can be even more depressing when you are underemployed if you, like many young professionals, equate your sense of self with your job. Just remember that you have so many different aspects to yourself that extend beyond what you do for money during the day. If you keep in mind that you are not your job, you can get through the day and understand that sometimes a not very challenging job that nonetheless pays the bills is necessary evil for the time being.

4. Always be on the lookout for other opportunities 

It can be hard to look for other work opportunities when you feel drained from working at your current job. When I was underemployed as a recent grad, I looked through different job listings every single day the morning before I went to work. I starred those that held some promise, then after returning home, I further reduced the list and applied to jobs that might better match my skillset.

Even if these jobs say they require more experience than you currently have, there's no harm in trying. I eventually got an interview for a job whose advertisement required 3-5 years of experience. I only had one year of experience, but I sold myself as best as I could.

5. Find a mentor who believes in you.
A mentor is an indispensible part of advancing in any sort of career. If you don't already have some sort of career mentor, you may be at a loss as to how to find one. First off, think of all the successful adults you know, whether they're former professors, friends of your parents, parents of your friends, etc. See if any of them have jobs or careers that you would one day love to have.

Contact them and talk to them. You'd be surprised by how open and supportive many successful professionals can be. For more advice on finding mentors, check out this article.

Underemployment among young professionals will likely be a serious economic problem in this country for some time to come. But there are steps you can take to reverse the damage, the most important of which is to stay hopeful and stay confident. Good luck!

Guest Blogger Profile
Patricia Garza is a freelance education blogger whose goal is to help current students and recent graduates find rewarding lives and careers. She is especially interested in the future of education, and hopes to help her readers in particular find reputable, accredited online colleges. Patricia welcomes your feedback and questions below!
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