By Kali Hawlk
Generation Y, or the Millennial generation, has been known for its struggles with a weak job market. Only one out of two Millennials had a full-time job that required at least a Bachelor’s degree in 2012, which meant a full 50 percent of recent college graduates were either unemployed or underemployed.
Being underemployed means you have a job, but it might be part-time and it’s definitely below what your skill set and education says you’re capable of doing. This is the position I found myself in three months after graduating. I got a job doing basic data entry for a small company that paid $12 per hour. The job didn’t require training or any of the abilities I had picked up through four years of undergraduate study, but I felt lucky: the position was full-time and it came with benefits.
However, I wasn’t satisfied with remaining underemployed. I was determined to make the most of my position. Here’s what I did, and what you can do, too, if you find yourself underemployed but wanting more.
Take Pride in the Quality of Your Work
My job might have been incredibly easy, but I didn’t coast. I was determined to be the absolute best in the position that I could be. I worked to streamline processes, cut down on inefficiencies, and reduce mistakes. Soon, I was doing work in half the time my predecessor took to complete the same tasks (and more accurately, too).
I took pride in the work I was doing – and my supervisor took notice. Within a few months of starting my job, I had earned myself a raise and went from $12 per hour to $15. I still wasn’t rich, but I was making progress.
Be a Go-Getter
Eventually, I started doing my work almost too well. I would finish tasks so quickly that I was soon twiddling my thumbs for half the day. Instead of waiting to be assigned a project, I started looking for more ways to fill my time. I started volunteering for any work that needed to get done even if it was outside the list of responsibilities in my job description.
My superiors appreciated that I was willing to work and eager to help. I was able to take on more responsibility and higher-level work. This both kept me from getting bored and made me feel a little more useful – and more one step away from underemployed. It also netted me another raise, and I moved from an hourly employee to a salaried one.
Don’t Limit Yourself to Your Day Job
For me, one of the worst things about being underemployed was the fact that I felt useless. I wasn’t utilizing anything I learned in college, I wasn’t doing what I always dreamed of, and the work I was doing was simplistic and didn’t challenge me.
So I started up a side hustle. In my free time, I picked up writing gigs. Eventually, I even started my own blog, which lead to more paid writing work. Now, I’m looking at starting my own content management business and taking my entrepreneurial endeavor full-time within a year.
Don’t limit your opportunities
Work hard and prove how valuable you are to your employer, even if you’re not working your dream job. This will open new doors for you and might lead you to pay increases and even upward mobility within your company. But remember, you can always strike out on your own if you’re frustrated with underemployment. Millennials are, after all, also known for their indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit.
This post originally ran on GoGirlFinance.
Kali Hawlk blogs about common-sense financial advice at Common Sense Millennial. She’s passionate about personal finance and helping millennials manage their money and live well on less. Currently, she is pursuing the ultimate dream of writing for a living and moving abroad. You can connect with her by tweeting @CSMillennial