According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if you are under-employed, you are in a lot of company. I didn’t write that you are in “good” company because everyone I know that’s under-employed is frustrated at the very least. If you are among this audience, being frustrated seems reasonable to me.

I admit that it irks me when the reporting by the U.S. Government seems to have disregarded the real employment numbers. I’m especially referring to the under-employed, who are given cursory attention it any. Another number, which is critical to our economic health, is the workforce participation rate; which is currently at 62.9%. Someone is taking care of those people (I hope). Sixty-three percent of those who want to work can’t find jobs, or they are so frustrated that they’ve stopped looking.

It seems that the media has totally given up on any realistic reporting on the jobs market and whatever job you have is probably what you will have. Make it work.

I cannot and will not hold to that philosophy. People who want to work and have relevant skills that are needed in the workplace, in my mind; should be able to get work.

There’s a lot to that last statement. My initial training was in music. I taught college music classes and conducted university and semi-professional orchestras. Those are no longer relevant skills! (Not to mention that I think it’s unethical to award degrees to people when there is a remarkably low chance of earning a living with that degree.)

For the purpose of this article, let’s agree that:

  • There is a host of people who are under-employed or have given up. You can look up that number here on the U-6 table.
  • The Labor Force Participation Rate is very high as can be seen here.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces numbers each month and then adjusts them for several months afterwards. So the credibility of the last quarter leaves me somewhat skeptical. The reporting is dry and bland. It takes an intentional effort to find relevant facts and translate them into something meaningful—if that’s possible.

I suspect I could find people who would agree with me on everything that I’ve written so far. However, the bigger question is what should people do who want to get out of UNDER-employment?

Here’s the quick, down and dirty list. It’s ugly, but it works. I don’t expect every under-employed person to do everything on this list. Everything helps, even the little additions.

  1. Do a real heart-to-heart with yourself and make sure there is a market for the types of jobs that you want. If you are hoping for a job as a marine biologist in Iowa…well, good luck with that.
  2. Next – ensure that you are qualified for those jobs. (Notice, I didn’t ask, “Do you think you can do the job?) Nope, I’m asking if your résumé clearly demonstrates that you are qualified for the positions. If not, your résumé needs changing.
  3. Prove that you are still interested in doing these activities. Take a class—or two or three. There are free classes online and some are from quite reputable institutions such as Harvard and Yale. These are sometimes called MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses). Here’s the catch: 90% of students don’t finish these courses. Therefore, finishing a course will be impressive because the dropout numbers are well known. (In defense of the MOOCS, studies show that students who didn’t finish the course, still improved in their understanding and skill level with the course content…this is a fact that is not well known.

  4. Start a blog. Why? Because people who take the time to write a blog are demonstrating passion. So even if your blog has nothing to do with the kind of job you want, it still speaks on your behalf as an engaged individual. Set a schedule for publication and stick to it. I blog every two weeks. Whenever I get an idea, I send myself an email so I don’t forget. This has worked for every jobseeker I have worked with…most of whom have not written a blog since they were hired. Are you groaning? Not a writer? may be a help to you.
  5. Go to job fairs. (I can hear you groaning.) That’s okay, however, this may put a different spin on them.

    Job fair announcements usually list the businesses who will be represented, and the types of roles they seek to fill. If these roles match what you are looking for, then use the hiring/screening professionals there to learn about trends and change in your industry.
    My top questions are:

    1. What are the business needs you see in the next three to six months?
    2. What kinds of positions do you hope to fill?
    3. What are the top business challenges you see in the next year?

    Suggestion: Don’t hand your résumé out unless they ask for it. If they do ask, then get some feedback on it. Ask if they see anything you should change. What do they like about it.

  6. LinkedIn. Get some traction here! I cannot emphasize using LinkedIn enough. There are numerous articles with great ideas on how jobseekers can use LinkedIn to effectively advance their job search. Start by joining groups that are relevant to your specialization.

  7. Once a client is in the interview process, I ask them to identify people, via LinkedIn, who have previously worked at that business. Then I ask them to connect and request a 15-20-minute phone call to ask about the business and the culture. Generally, one out of three will respond to these requests.

  8. Finally, evaluate your current place of under-employment. Assuming that you are pleasant, professional and diligent with your job activities, they are getting a bargain! There may be opportunities to move into better paying roles with additional responsibilities.

    The under-employed in the United States are in an especially difficult situation. They are working, bringing in an income—of sorts. In a sense, they are “off the radar” to the media. Programs are geared to the unemployed rather than the under-employed. Consequently, there is little assistance. Further, they are often working more than one job to try to get by. Time is at a premium, so many of the entries on the list may simply be impossible to initiate. However, with a computer or smart phone, LinkedIn is a possibility and even 10 minutes a day can be helpful.

I hope readers of this article will find even one or two items that they can implement into their situation and I hope it helps.

Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.

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