Expert Interview: Overcoming Underemployment

job jail book cover

It's one thing to have a job, but it's another thing entirely to have a job you really love. The gap between underemployment and fulfilling employment isn't often discussed, but that's why LoveToKnow Jobs took a moment to talk with Audrey LeGrand. Ms. LeGrand is affectionately known as the "Job Jail Lady." She is the author of How To Get Out Of Job Jail: Eight Ways To Have The Career You've Always Wanted. As a human resources consultant with over 28 years of experience, 14 of which have been spent as a corporate trainer and entrepreneur, she's more than qualified to tell readers exactly how underemployment affects work outcomes and how to get out of "job jail."

About Underemployment

LoveToKnow (LTK): Can you take a moment to explain underemployment and how it affects American workers?

Audrey LeGrand (AL): Underemployment has two distinct meanings:

  1. Underemployment occurs when workers are in jobs that do not require them to use their natural gifts, talents, skills or education.
  2. The workers find themselves in seasonal, contract or part time employment when they really desire full time work.

This is what's happening currently to millions of American workers. Some workers have chosen to work in positions that do not require the use of their natural gifts, talents, skills or education because these positions fit their current needs.

LTK: Why do you think that underemployment isn't discussed more often?

AL: The Department of Labor only calculates two sets of statistics - unemployed individuals and working individuals. That's it. They do not look at the classification of the working individual, so there is no clear way to accurately calculate how many Americans are actually underemployed.

LTK: What are some of the problems that can occur when the workforce is comprised of so many underemployed individuals?

AL: A lot of people never realize their full potential or use their skills or knowledge in meaningful and secure employment. They simply settle or accept their underemployment status and make the best of it. Eventually, resentment and frustration can set in towards their employer or their situation. The employee may develop a bad attitude, his productivity decreases and hostility can develop.

Overcoming Underemployment

LTK: What are your top three suggestions for individuals who are currently underemployed?

AL: I think my top three suggestions would be to:

  1. Always be on the lookout for great opportunities. These opportunities could be within your organization, outside of your organization or even entrepreneurial opportunities. To always be on the lookout will require restlessness on your part that is going to need to be internally fueled. The fact is, your employer is happy with you doing your current job - she doesn't want to have to replace you and take the time to train another individual. She's probably not going to go out of her way to develop your career, so you are pretty much on your own to reach the next level.
  2. Keep your skills sharp. Stay up to date with industry trends. Read as much material about the industry you are interested in as you can get your hands on. Take classes, get certified in some aspect of your industry, be the best you can be in that industry. Use the 4 R's of effective career management: reinvent, re-tool, re-certify or re-educate yourself for future success.
  3. Create a positive cyberspace presence for you self on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. About 65% of employers have indicated that they check these sites regularly regarding prospective employees and current employees. Remember you are ultimately responsible for the cyber image you have. So make a clean, professional page on each social media site. If you must, you can create a second, more casual and friendly page for family, friends and acquaintances, but make sure you protect yourself with security settings that prevent others from viewing these pages.

LTK: In a tough economy, how can an individual position herself to stand out from the competition when searching for jobs?

AL: Serious job seekers shouldn't spend all day on the internet looking for jobs, they should get out among the working people via trains, bookstores, coffee shops, libraries, newsstands, lunch spots, seminars and workshops. This type of networking will help you work your way to new career opportunity.

job jail book cover

It's important to note: millions of Americans participate in daily bus and rail commutes, making the public transportation system a great source of speed networking for job seekers. Below are some tips to help you network your way to a better employment:

  • Participate in the workforce commute; be prepared to make new connections
  • Take public transportation to the library, eatery and bookstores
  • Conduct your online job search from a coffee shop in the business district several times a week
  • Join a professional association in the career field you wish to pursue; get to know the people already doing the job you want
  • Learn the art of selling yourself in 30 seconds-who you are, what you do and how you can add value to an organization, etc.
  • Blackberry beaming-create your own electronic business card file on your cell phone - it takes 10 seconds or less to transfer info to and from the people you meet while networking

LTK: Do you have any other suggestions or tips for readers looking to break out of "job jail"?

AL: Of course!

  1. Know your true gifts, talents, skills and abilities. Begin to align these traits with your heart's desire for meaningful employment. Make a list of all your abilities on the left hand side of a blank sheet of paper. On the right side of the paper list all the careers, job and industries that can use your specific skills. Now you must build a bridge from the left side of the page to the right side of the page. This exercise will show you and prospective employers how easily your gifts, talents, skills and abilities can be easily transferred into new career opportunities.
  2. There is no need for one resume, create multiple resumes that highlight and showcase your different skill sets. Introduce the resume that is best suited for each unique opportunity you go after.
  3. Begin to think about the tasks, reasons or advice people come to you for. Could you use those tasks, reasons and advice to start your own business? Will companies be willing to pay for your talent? Consider starting a business and using your natural gifts, talents and abilities to be an entrepreneur.

More from Audrey LeGrand

Visit Audrey LeGrand's website for more information. LoveToKnow Jobs would like to thank Ms. LeGrand for taking the time to share her insights into overcoming unemployment.

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Expert Interview: Overcoming Underemployment