There seems to be this unending pressure to be successful. We must do more, be more, see more. And so it is especially difficult to be underemployed, to feel like you are stuck in a job that is unfulfilling, barely pays the rent, or is so very far from what you dream of doing. Sometimes we work these jobs for a summer, sometimes for way longer than that.
As a writer I don’t make a lot of money. So I work odd jobs to help pay our bills. I don’t want a job that will be too overwhelming or time consuming. I want a job that provides a paycheck, a supportive work environment, and the kind of work that I leave at the office when I go home. I don’t want to come home burdened with the stress of the day, or loaded with paperwork. I want to come home and write or create in some way, because that is what feeds my soul.
Whether you are paying for grad school, or supporting your art, or supporting your family, or biding time until you figure out what you really want to do, underemployment doesn’t need to feel like such a burden. Underemployment can be a real gift.
First, underemployment is an incredibly humbling situation. When you are working a job that you feel is beneath you in some way, it teaches you a lot about humility, but not if you spend the whole time complaining. Try to look at every moment as a lesson, a chance to do something different, to choose a different attitude. And yeah, some days you may hate your job and sulk about it a little bit. But we can always learn something from wherever we are, and underemployment is no different. Look for the lessons this job has for you and allow yourself to be challenged.
My favorite thing about underemployment is the endless mind wandering. Usually, when we are underemployed we are only using one half of our brain and the rest is free to wander. This is especially important to me because even though I have tasks throughout the day that I need to complete, I can also spend all day creating and planning new projects. It’s awesome! It’s like I am being paid to create and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop me!
Part of the hope in underemployment is the knowledge that it won’t be forever, that somewhere down the line things will be different. But if you’re like me, and plan to be underemployed in some fashion for the rest of your life, you have to let go of all that. And I am not saying that I am not successful, but I am saying that in the eyes of society, I will, most likely, always be underemployed. And so there lies the choice my friends; if we are forever underemployed what does that say about us? Can we be okay with that? Is our worth coming from outside of ourselves or within?
I have a friend who currently is without a job. Her mom has been paying her rent because she can’t afford to do so. I asked her a few weeks ago why she hadn’t taken the many job offers coming her way. She said that she had too much pride to take the jobs she was being offered. She is a smart girl with a degree and many talents, but her pride is running her life, and so she is broke, all because she refuses to be underemployed.
What are we sacrificing to look successful in the eyes of society? What lies are we telling ourselves about being underemployed that are sabotaging our happiness? Sometimes we just need to pay the rent and the never ending bills on the dining room table, and so we work whatever we need to work to make that happen. And that’s okay. Our jobs don’t define us anyway. They’re just another part of this great journey. And so we make the choice to have a better attitude, to embrace every moment, to be open to learning new things in the most unlikely of situations. I promise you, that will change the way you look at your life. Dream big, work hard, but live in each moment, making the best of every situation.