What is Underemployment? And How Do We Avoid this Career Trap?

win the fightUnemployment has been in the news a lot recently, but few people have been paying attention to the number of underemployed people in this country.

While these individuals don’t fit neatly into a pie chart, this is a real and growing problem worthy of our attention. Luckily, there’s also a way to fight underemployment.

Unemployment vs. Underemployment

The unemployment rate we frequently hear about on the news is calculated by dividing the number of people receiving unemployment compensation by the estimated number of people in the workforce.

Today, the unemployment rate hovers around 7 percent.

This number, however, doesn’t truly reflect the number of workers who have not secured the right job when we consider their their potential (based on education, goals, aptitudes, etc.). If we took the number of people currently working that aren’t meeting their potential and divided it by the total workforce, we calculate the underemployment rate.

Currently, those not fully participating in the workforce is 63 percent.

So, 93 percent of Americans are not receiving unemployment compensation, but only 63 percent are participating fully in the workforce. That difference of 30 percent is the rate of underemployment.

Who Really Creates Jobs?

This number is so staggering that it seems unbelievable that we haven’t heard much about it. Despite the federal government stimulating the marketplace to the tune of a $17 trillion-dollar debt, the employment needle still fails to move as much as policymakers had envisioned.

What policy leaders underestimate, though, is the power small businesses and entrepreneurs have to boost local economies. In fact, 70 percent of the jobs in our country are created by Main Street businesses. Not big banks. Not huge brokerage firms. Entrepreneurs.

So, how do the underemployed capitalize on possible opportunities? How do you pursue a future based on your specific skills, knowledge, and determination?

Invest in Your Inner Entrepreneur

Meet Mike Worley. He’s married and has a family. He also happens to be a marketing genius within the publishing industry. However, he found himself incarcerated in his own career. His daily commute robbed him of nearly two hours every day. He was hired to create a digital presence for his company’s clients, but management was firmly rooted in the past of paper and binding. Even worse, his entire job could have been accomplished much more effectively and efficiently on his laptop from the comfort of his home.

Just like many of today’s underemployed, Mike has essential skills and drive. He invested in himself and started his own marketing company that will be successfully managed from his residence. No more dreaded commutes. No more battling antiquated practices. He’s helped reduce the underemployment rate and made an impact on his local economy. His is one of thousands of new businesses dotting the American landscape, yet his success doesn’t register on any government unemployment report.

You might relate to Mike. You have the skills, experience, and passion. Could you use your knowledge to launch your own small business? Without a doubt, this endeavor takes dedication and consideration. For many Americans, however, it is infinitely more rewarding than waiting for the possibility of a corporate job to present itself.

Showcase Your Skills

Even if you aren’t looking to start your own business, you can still secure a better, more rewarding job by working for one of these entrepreneurs. By focusing on your inherent strengths and packaging yourself, you can appeal to entrepreneurial-minded individuals in your community and land the right job for you.

  • Define your package | The collection of your talents, education, and experiences defines your package. Your goal is to translate these wonderful attributes into practical work skills and examples of your ingenuity.
  • Design your brand | You must set yourself apart from other job seekers by focusing on your brand. Design a logo for yourself, and create a digital portfolio to display work samples and measurable past successes. With easy-to-use tools like Squarespace or WordPress, you can create a professional-looking website to showcase your portfolio and skills that will resonate with entrepreneurs.
  • Explore your resources | If you hope to transition to a new career or learn new skills that complement your existing strengths, there are plenty of online resources that can help. Code Academy, Khan Academy, and Coursera are among the multiple online tools that can help hone your professional skills and make you an appealing candidate. Classes are also readily available through many community centers as well.

If you are currently one of the millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed, consider pursuing the promise of small business. The revitalization of the American economy rests on the shoulders of local entrepreneurs.

You can work to develop your strengths and unique brand to begin your new career and contribute to the American Dream… and beat underemployment.





About the Author: Steve Musick is the CEO of Destiny Capital, a financial advising firm he founded in 1977. In addition to wealth management, Steve is an author, speaker, and lecturer on the subject of entrepreneurial leadership. He recently launched www.Empowerium.com as an entrepreneurial platform to fuel business growth.



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