Entry Level, Part-time Underemployment Epidemic

Why the Retail Industry Needs Underemployment and How to Get Out of It

Retail Overqualified, Entry Level, Part-time Underemployment Epidemic
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Job hunters looking for part-time entry-level positions for which they are highly overqualified don't need to look any farther than the U.S. retail industry.  Underemployment is not just an epidemic in the employment ranks of the retail industry, it's become a state of being.  

Of course. it's not often that job hunters actually look for underemployment, but the fact of the matter is that seven years after the Great Recession officially ended, more than 10% of the U.S. workforce is still  caught in underemployment.

 These underemployed U.S. workers are reporting to their part-time and/or entry level jobs for which they are overqualified every day because they feel like it's better than the alternative, which is unemployment.  

The reason why underemployment in the U.S. retail industry is unlikely to change anytime soon is that the retail industry needs underemployment to survive.  Some of the largest U.S. retail chains have created business models which will only be sustained with low-paid part-time workers.  The ability to fill those unskilled entry level jobs with skilled and college-educated employees is a paradigm that retailers aren't eager to change.

RELATED: How to Leverage Retail Underemployment Into Career Success in Any Field >> 

The government officially defines "underemployed" people as those who desire full-time employment, but who can only find a part-time job.  The non-governmental definition of underemployment also includes highly skilled and highly educated people who have accepted a low skills job or a low paying job because they couldn't find anything better or because they need to supplement the income they get from the part-time job they wish was a full-time gig.

Based on the expanded definition, it's easy to see why underemployment is rampant in the U.S. retail and restaurant industry.  Retail and restaurant jobs are viewed as the jobs of last resort for job hunters before, during, and after they are getting an education.  And since a college degree doesn't guarantee a professional level job in the U.S. anymore, the retail and restaurant industry become the fallback job source for too many workers for too long.

According to the  Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), there have been more people with college degrees than there are jobs that require college degrees in the U.S. since 2010.  That's why the retail industry is filled to overflowing with recent college graduates who can't find a degree-appropriate job, unemployed workers from all rungs of the corporate ladder who need stopgap income while they are job hunting, and seniors who have ended their career, but can't afford to completely retire.

There is so much underemployment in the retail industry these days that there isn't any room for first-job teens at the entry level.  That's why the teen unemployment rate is triple that of the rest of the U.S. workforce as a whole, according to a recent report by The Fiscal Times.

While there might be a small amount of comfort knowing that you are not the only underemployed person in the U.S., the situation is no more acceptable just because there's a large number of people who are sharing it. Misery may love company, but most underemployed people are still miserable with their diminished positions.

The good news is that there are plenty of resourceful, creative, and determined employees who have found a way out of unemployment both inside and out of the retail and restaurant industry.

Whether you are an underemployed worker in the U.S. retail industry or any other industry, the good news is that others before have been able to leverage their retail underemployment into a successful right-fit career path in their chosen field.  Transcending unemployment is not just about finding a new and better job.  It's first about digging in and extracting the career path gold from the job you have right now, no matter how low level, unrelated, and dead end the work may seem to be.  

Instead of looking for a new job, many underemployed workers are finding ways to transform their underemployment situation into something that is practically custom-made for their talents, skills, and experience.  In fact, many have found that surviving and transcending underemployment in America can be as simple as "A-B-C."

8 Steps That Underemployed Workers Use to Get On the Right Career Path

"A" is for "Accept" - Accept the Position

Filling out the paperwork and signing the W-2 doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve accepted your new position. Accepting a position for which you are overqualified means letting go of the circumstances which led you to be underemployed, and making peace with the gap between the job you want and the job you have.

Everyone you work with will know if you’re just tolerating your work situation, and that will make them less tolerant of you. Your first job in underemployment is to find a way to embrace your situation completely in order to make the best of what might eventually be a really positive step towards a upward-moving career path.

"B" is for "Be" - Be Willing and Be Helpful

By definition, if you’re underemployed, you’re too good for the job that you’re filling. It’s okay to remember this, but it’s not so okay to remind other people about it. Be willing to complete tasks, no matter how menial, and offer assistance to others with their menial tasks as well. An air of superiority will help you create enemies. An attitude of willingness and helpfulness will help you create allies and opportunities.

"C is for "Chip" - Get the Chip Off Your Shoulder and Onto Your Resume

The best way to find a job in which you can use your talents, skills, and abilities is to use your talents, skills, and abilities with the job you’re in. Demonstrate your graphic design talent by creating a department newsletter. Utilize your powerpoint skills to help your boss get ready for a presentation. Volunteer your copywriting experience to the marketing team when they have an impossible deadline. Contribute your project management expertise to an Employee Appreciation Day.

If you’re willing to contribute, you’ll be able to find or create opportunities to showcase what you have to offer the organization. Just don’t forget to complete your own job responsibilities too!

"D" is for "Do" - Do Your Job

No matter how boring, mundane, and unchallenging your duties may seem, there are people who need you to perform those tasks, otherwise you wouldn’t have been hired. The only thing worse than getting stuck in a job for which you are overqualified is getting fired from a job for which you are overqualified.

So while you might still be completely focused on looking for a better position, don’t forget to adequately fill the position you’re in.  Ownership is a quality that employers search for, so if you demonstrate it, you're setting yourself up to move up.

"E" is for "Exceed" - Exceed Expectations

When you’re underemployed, it’s easy to fall into a self-defeating “they don’t pay me enough” state of mind. From that perspective, it seems perfectly logical to decide that you’ll do more when you get paid more. Raises and promotions, however, generally aren’t used as performance bribes. Rather, raises and promotions are generally given out as performance rewards.

Those who do what is expected of them are rewarded with a paycheck and a chance to earn more wages tomorrow. Those who do more than is expected of them get more in return. When you actively look for opportunities to exceed the expectations of your customers your efforts will be noticed and appreciated. Above and beyond behaviors can help propel you above and beyond underemployment.

"F" is for "Find" or "Fashion" - Find or Fashion Your Future

You might not be hired into the perfect job, but that doesn’t mean that a right fit job doesn’t exist for you within the organization. Once you’re in the company door, you’ll be well positioned to explore future possibilities. You might be able to find a position that suits you better, or if the right fit job doesn’t exist, you might be able to fashion a position for yourself that the company doesn’t yet know it needs.

While it’s natural for the underemployed to be focused on the future, you’ll want to make sure you don’t come off as overly aggressive or opportunistic. Professional internal networking can move you forward. Pushing your own personal agenda can get you moved out.

"G" is for "Give" - Give Respect

You might be more educated than your manager, more experienced than the department head, and more accomplished than the CEO in your underemployment situation. It’s important, however, to honor positions of authority and give respect to the people who are filling them. No one will respect your experience if you don’t first respect theirs.

"H" is for "Have" - Have Gratitude

It’s easy to feel battered and victimized by economic, job market, and workplace injustices. People who are underemployed often also feel frustrated, angry, depressed, or hopeless. While those around you may understand your feelings, they’re not going to want to hang around them for an indefinite period of time.

Focusing on what you have instead of what you don't have can help lift you out of your unemployment funk and give you an optimistic outlook. An attitude of gratitude will give you a better vibe, set you up for a professional turnaround, and, in general, make it easier for you to sleep at night.