How to Make the Most of Underemployment

April 14, 2014

underemploymentIn many cases, underemployment means doing work you don’t enjoy for less than you’re worth.

Sometimes, being underemployed means only working part-time hours, even though you want to work full-time.

Underemployment can be a drag on your morale, and it is especially difficult, since you can’t usually collect unemployment benefits when you’re underemployed, so you end up struggling financially.

Here are some of the ways that you can make the most of underemployment:

1. Improve Your Marketable Skills

If you want a better job, it can make sense to improve your marketable skills. In some cases, you can get away with developing soft skills, like improving your writing and presentation skills. You can also learn about social media, online communication, and other skills that can make you valuable to many employers.

It’s also possible to take classes. If you have extra time on your hands as a result of your underemployment, you can go back to school to finish a degree or to learn something new. If you are eligible, you might be able to get student loans with relatively low interest rates in order to help you pay for school. While student loans aren’t an ideal option, they can help ease your financial situation and help you acquire a marketable skill that an employer might be willing to compensate you for.

2. Start a Side Gig

If you have always wanted to start a side business, now might be your chance. If you have time due to underemployment, you might be able to turn your hobby into a money-maker. See if you can find a good business idea and start your side gig.

Not only can a side business help you fill the time, but it can also reduce the financial difficulties that come with underemployment. If you are fortunate, and if you work particularly hard to make it happen, you might actually end up making enough with your side business to eliminate the need for a more conventional job. Your time underemployed might actually contribute to a better lifestyle later.

3. Re-Evaluate Your Spending

It’s important to use this time to reevaluate your spending. While underemployment is not a fun situation to be in, the reality is that it can force you to take a closer look at your spending and your financial priorities.

Where are you spending money? Where can you cut back? Does it make sense to downsize a little? Should you sell some of your belongings? You might also discover that it makes sense to spend more time with your friends and family making memories with inexpensive activities. While it’s not a good place to be, I do know people who have been underemployed who used it as a reason to completely overhaul their lifestyles. In some cases, it actually resulted in increased lifestyle satisfaction.

No matter your situation, you can turn underemployment into an advantage. Even if you don’t want to adopt minimalist principles to downsize in response to underemployment, you can still change your situation. Whether you look to become marketable by acquiring new skills, or whether you start a side gig, you can use underemployment as a way to propel you into the next stage of your life.

Are you underemployed? What are you doing with your free time? Leave a comment!


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Miranda writes about personal finance almost every day. An experienced freelance writer, she's covered your money online and in print from every angle and is always looking for new ones.

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2 Responses to How to Make the Most of Underemployment

  • Mario Aventuresinfrugal

    I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to re-evaluate your spending 🙂

    When I think of “under-employed,” it makes me imagine someone who has the qualifications for the job they want, but doesn’t have the job. To bridge that gap, I think one of the most important things to do would be networking hard.


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