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 Everything You Need To Understand About Underemployment
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When I graduated with my PhD in English four years ago, I was most concerned about not finding a job at all. I was so worried about unemployment that I didn’t realize I might face another problem entirely: underemployment.

In the years leading up to that moment, I’d done everything in my power to pursue a career in academic publishing. In addition to my prior office experience, I’d held three internships, regularly attended conferences to meet with editors, and kept up with scholarship on several topics. Sure, the industry’s competitive. But I believed my education and experience would help me not just break in but accelerate past entry-level.

Two months after I graduated, I finally landed an interview with a press. Yes, just one. When they offered me an entry-level role as an assistant editor, I didn’t think twice. I took the job and tried not to panic about my looming student loan debt, especially when I learned I’d be making less than I had before grad school. I was grateful to have something, but it was hard to shake the disappointment. I felt embarrassed, like there must be something wrong with me if I couldn’t find a job on par with my qualifications.



What Is Underemployment?


Underemployment isn’t a new phenomenon. According to Doug Maynard, a psychology professor at SUNY New Paltz and co-editor of Underemployment: Psychological, Economic and Social Challenges, the term refers to a few different types of employment: holding a part-time or contract role but preferring something full-time; earning less than you typically would with your education and experience; or being overqualified for your current position.

Between 1990 and 2012, about a third of college graduates aged 25-65 were working in jobs that don’t require a degree at any given time. Even more concerning, 44% of recent college graduates ages 22 to 27 were affected by the trend in 2012.



Underemployment hasn’t been studied as often as unemployment because it’s a more subjective experience, says Maynard. There’s still quite a lot researchers don’t know, but what they do is telling. For starters, people tend to experience the same symptoms as those who are unemployed—low self-esteem and self-worth, poor health, aggressive behaviors, and even alcohol and drug abuse as a means to cope with their bleak situations.



What Is It Like To Be Underemployed?
Being underemployed affects everyone differently, but it’s no surprise that many become discouraged about their sub-par job prospects. A New York executive video producer with 15 years of experience describes the feeling well. “I know I have a lot to offer and I feel as if I did everything right—attended a top journalism school, worked hard and moved wherever my job took me before finally settling in New York and working countless hours just to get to where I am,” she says. But full-time roles have been hard to find. “It doesn’t feel right to make an income that’s not reflective of my experience.”

And the economic consequences can be lasting. Not only do you tend to make less as a result of being underemployed (what researchers call “wage penalties”), but it can also be really hard to break out of that cycle. People can remain underemployed for years because they don’t get the same opportunities to develop their skills or advance in their career. Even once you find full-time employment, playing catch up can take time.



An MFA graduate who wanted to teach full-time cobbled together a living by working as an adjunct professor at two universities while also bartending. But she quickly found it was too much to juggle.

“It was awful,” she tells me. “I was depressed, I was overwhelmed, I couldn’t keep up with all of my responsibilities, and all of my relationships suffered, contributing to more isolation and more onus to somehow fix things, in ways I couldn’t figure out.” Even now that she’s found a full-time position, she says, “I still have to bartend one night a week to catch up on my debt, never mind build savings or retirement.”

Unfortunately, with the rise of the gig economy and other more temporary means of employment, Maynard tells The Muse that “this new reality is not likely to change anytime soon.”

When I graduated with my PhD in English four years ago, I was most concerned about not finding a job at all. I was so worried about unemployment that I didn’t realize I might face another problem entirely: underemployment.

In the years leading up to that moment, I’d done everything in my power to pursue a career in academic publishing. In addition to my prior office experience, I’d held three internships, regularly attended conferences to meet with editors, and kept up with scholarship on several topics. Sure, the industry’s competitive. But I believed my education and experience would help me not just break in but accelerate past entry-level.

Two months after I graduated, I finally landed an interview with a press. Yes, just one. When they offered me an entry-level role as an assistant editor, I didn’t think twice. I took the job and tried not to panic about my looming student loan debt, especially when I learned I’d be making less than I had before grad school. I was grateful to have something, but it was hard to shake the disappointment. I felt embarrassed, like there must be something wrong with me if I couldn’t find a job on par with my qualifications.



What Is Underemployment?


Underemployment isn’t a new phenomenon. According to Doug Maynard, a psychology professor at SUNY New Paltz and co-editor of Underemployment: Psychological, Economic and Social Challenges, the term refers to a few different types of employment: holding a part-time or contract role but preferring something full-time; earning less than you typically would with your education and experience; or being overqualified for your current position.

Between 1990 and 2012, about a third of college graduates aged 25-65 were working in jobs that don’t require a degree at any given time. Even more concerning, 44% of recent college graduates ages 22 to 27 were affected by the trend in 2012.



Underemployment hasn’t been studied as often as unemployment because it’s a more subjective experience, says Maynard. There’s still quite a lot researchers don’t know, but what they do is telling. For starters, people tend to experience the same symptoms as those who are unemployed—low self-esteem and self-worth, poor health, aggressive behaviors, and even alcohol and drug abuse as a means to cope with their bleak situations.



What Is It Like To Be Underemployed?
Being underemployed affects everyone differently, but it’s no surprise that many become discouraged about their sub-par job prospects. A New York executive video producer with 15 years of experience describes the feeling well. “I know I have a lot to offer and I feel as if I did everything right—attended a top journalism school, worked hard and moved wherever my job took me before finally settling in New York and working countless hours just to get to where I am,” she says. But full-time roles have been hard to find. “It doesn’t feel right to make an income that’s not reflective of my experience.”

And the economic consequences can be lasting. Not only do you tend to make less as a result of being underemployed (what researchers call “wage penalties”), but it can also be really hard to break out of that cycle. People can remain underemployed for years because they don’t get the same opportunities to develop their skills or advance in their career. Even once you find full-time employment, playing catch up can take time.



An MFA graduate who wanted to teach full-time cobbled together a living by working as an adjunct professor at two universities while also bartending. But she quickly found it was too much to juggle.

“It was awful,” she tells me. “I was depressed, I was overwhelmed, I couldn’t keep up with all of my responsibilities, and all of my relationships suffered, contributing to more isolation and more onus to somehow fix things, in ways I couldn’t figure out.” Even now that she’s found a full-time position, she says, “I still have to bartend one night a week to catch up on my debt, never mind build savings or retirement.”

Unfortunately, with the rise of the gig economy and other more temporary means of employment, Maynard tells that “this new reality is not likely to change anytime soon.”



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https://www.worldjobtrends.com/everything-you-need-to-understand-about-underemployment/
 


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