The Defining Decade – Identity Capital Part 4

Underemployment, it happens to all twentysomethings. Even though we are overqualified we accept these positions for two reasons:

1) A part time job to pay for expenses while we are finishing school
2) A job that gets us in the door for our chosen career path

We could take a part time position in retail or gather tips as a waiter/bartender to pay for schools, bills, rent, etc. An internship or a basic floater position might open up opportunities to work experience, networking and other job opportunities. Underemployment is not exactly glamorous, but as Dr. Meg Jay puts it in The Defining Decade, “some underemployment generates capital that trumps everything else.”

Some underemployment has no credit towards our future. In fact, it can actually hurt our resumes. Underemployment positions after college, with no explanation, are a red flag to future employers. It signals a period of misused time or lack of motivation; qualities a new employer does not want an employee to have.

Underemployment like this can also have an effect on our personal life, sometimes for the long term.

“The longer it takes to get our footing in work, the more likely we are to become, as one journalist put it, ‘different and damaged.’ Research on underemployment twentysomethings tells us that those who are underemployed for as little as nine months tend to be more depressed and less motivated than their peers – than even their unemployed peers. But before we decide that unemployment is a better alternative to underemployment, consider this: Twentysomething unemployment is associated with heavy drinking and depression in middle age even after becoming regularly employed.”

It is important, that we twentysomethings choose what to do with our time and how we plan to gain capital.

“Economist and Sociologists agree that twentysomething work has an inordinate influence on our long–run career success. About two-thirds of life time wage growth happens in the first ten years of a career… the latest data from the US Census Bureau shows that, on average, salaries peak – and plateau – in our forties.”

It is crucial that in our twenties we take the time to explore experiences and gather capital before we are weighed down; before “families and mortgages get in the way of higher degrees and cross-country moves, and salaries rise more slowly.”

Underemployment will happen and there will be tough choices to make. When you are contemplating your decision, think of Dr. Meg Jay’s advice,

“…Take the job with the most capital.”

*All quotes from this post and this post series come from The Defining Decade and should be accredited to Dr. Meg Jay.*

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