Author of "Your Journey from Fired to Hired"
Career Advice

Unemployed vs. Underemployed...Which is Better?

So you’ve graduated college, packed up your things, said your farewells….and moved back in with your parents. Chances are this scenario isn’t what you anticipated for that next exciting chapter in your life.

Before you decide that you’ve wasted 4 years of your life (and money!), don’t despair.  The good news is that things are improving steadily.  In fact, hiring of college grads is up 16% this year.  but the economy didn’t tank overnight and it won’t repair overnight.  Consequently, we can still expect some bumps and bruises for our new college grads looking for their first positions in their intended field.

While some may disagree with me, it’s my position that accepting a job…any job…is better than entering the waiting mode for the perfect job in your field.  And here’s why:

  • Lazy vs. Energetic. Future employers want to hire folks with a fire in their belly and a desire to work.  Not someone who’s more than content to live at home in their late 20’s and let their mom take care of them.  In fact, recent research indicates, “On average, a worker who had been unemployed for one to three months was over eight times more likely to get an interview request for a job in his or her industry than an applicant who had been unemployed for more than six months."
  • Oh, the People you’ll Meet! Admittedly making your student loan payment while working as a barista can be discouraging at best. But any job that interfaces with the public, gives you an easy chance to engage in (and practice!) networking.  Conversations with customers can expose you to new ideas, businesses and possible referral sources.  I personally know of many top performers that were recruited away from wait staff and other service oriented jobs into professional positions.  Just a word to the wise here though…it is important to respect that you are “working” for someone else and ensure you do the job justice.
  • What you didn't learn in College. There is simply no substitute for life experiences.  Sure it’s likely you won’t work forever at the local coffee house, but chances are your time there will be valuable to the remainder of your career.  Jobs (even those outside of your chosen field), give you the opportunity to learn a great deal about yourself and others.  They help you figure out what kind of work culture and leadership style suit you, and often the best lessons are learning what you “don’t” want.  Bottom line:  you won’t learn anything sitting on the coach watching Oprah.
  • It’s all about the Journey. Most successful people (myself included) admit their path to success has taken many twists and turns.  Many young millennials set unrealistic expectations and refuse to “settle” for anything outside the straight lines to success.  But the reality is that things often lead to other things.  New skill sets; new connections; an opportunity to move cross country…Even working as a barista can expose you to people with different ideas than yours
  • Improves Self-Esteem. Admittedly, it can be difficult to feel great about yourself when you’re dealing with constant rejection in the job market.  Accepting a job outside your chosen field doesn’t mean that you’ve settled and quit looking.  It simply means that you’ve found a way to earn some money, gain some experiences; meet some folks AND feel like a productive member of society while you continue to look for your “dream job.”
  • Cash Ain’t Bad. While it’s not the 6-figure compensation package you’ve dreamed of, chances are that some “jingle in the pocket” is better than none.  Look, I understand first-hand that after making sacrifices for years in college, it seems unfair.  But the harsh economic reality is that some money is better than no money.
  • Positivity Prevails. I don’t know about you, but there is simply no way I could maintain a “full-time” position of surfing job boards and generally feeling like a failure without getting depressed.  Having a job (any job) equates to having purpose.  It gives you a reason to go to bed, get out of bed, take a shower and yes…hopefully make contributions to the success of a team or business.  All of which can lead to far better morale than becoming “one” with the remote or spending the day on Facebook.
  • No One wants to be First. We could have a heated debate regarding the inclusion of jobs outside your intended field on your resume (CSV).  And I’m confident the opinions would be all over the board.  Just know this:  as a prospective employer, someone with “some” kind of work experience will almost always win points over someone with none.  So if you don’t have any former employers that can be listed and contacted as references then you’re far better off in my book taking a job and building your reputation because the reality is that few employers want to take on the burden of being your first “teacher.”

Ok, so I expect some heated debate on this topic….let’s get it started.  What do you disagree with?




Article written by:

Kathi Miller-Miller is a sought after career specialist and author of “Your Journey from Fired to Hired.” Kathi draws on her 25+ years of success (and failures!) to offer her readers advice on topics ranging from dealing with a boss that drives you crazy to managing millennials...all in a light-hearted and easy to read style.

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