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Avoid Being Underemployed With These 4 Tips

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October 15, 2020 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This article was written by Alex Sixt, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert solutions division leading the future of work and skills-based economy. If you’re struggling to find, vet, and hire the right Experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform to help you hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of Experts ready to work for you.

We’ve all been there before: you’re stuck in a job search for months, or even years, and finally, you receive the job offer you’ve been waiting for. However, it’s slightly under the salary range you would typically accept, and the job requirements don’t match your deep level of knowledge or skill set. What should you do? 

In any job search, an employment offer is the exciting start of a new life and career. However, the allure of a new job can also possibly lead you down the underemployment path if you’re not careful. Underemployment is defined as a few different scenarios: a job in which you’re underpaid, underworked (not receiving enough hours) or asked to do tasks that are below your qualifications. Although underemployment can manifest itself in different forms, all can have an effect in your happiness and motivation. While the new job offer may seem attractive, if it meets any of the above criteria, it’s in your best interest to pass.

The good news is underemployment can be easily avoided. While it’s easy to go with the flow in your career, it’s necessary to train yourself to recognize underemployment before it happens. By becoming proactive about your career plans and staying true to your skillset, you can avoid the unemployment trap and actually love your job. 

1. Have a focused job search. 

In any job search, the easy route is often the “spray and pray” method, which involves sending your resume to every possible employer and hoping something will come back to you. In most job searches, especially those that continue for longer than expected, the easiest application techniques pull people in. (Who doesn’t love the LinkedIn “easy apply” option?) However, dispersing your resume everywhere can feel like you’ve reached a great deal of companies, but it also means you’ll likely end up being forced to interview with jobs that don’t align with your desired position. 

The “spray and pray” method usually involves little to no attention to job descriptions, which can be one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker makes. When the goal is to apply to all jobs that include “marketing,” the job duties that fall under this title could vary from sales to social media and everything in between. And while it’s great to believe you can be adaptable to any skill, a job that lies completely outside of your skillset can end up making you feel unsuccessful or overwhelmed with the type of tasks required. A focused job search will help you to hone in on specific jobs while providing you with a sense of confidence in the application process. 

Focusing your search will involve extra time on your part, but it will yield much greater results in the end. Try searching jobs that are specific to your particular skills rather than those under your general domain. (For example, search “supply chain” rather than “business”) This will help you be sure you’re only applying to jobs that you can handle and are likely to enjoy more. Reach out to any identified recruiters related to the job with questions or to connect about the position; this will help you to stand out from the other candidates by showing increased interest in the open role. Finally, while working in Hawaii or another dream location may sound fun, searching in places that you’re sure you’re able to sustain a living will ensure you’re not accepting jobs simply due to their location. 

Related: 6 Tips to Land Your Remote Dream Job 

2. Align your LinkedIn profile with your goals.

One of the most common pitfalls that professionals fall into is failing to update their LinkedIn profile. While it may seem like just another social media app, LinkedIn is actually a helpful way to avoid underemployment. As an active user, you’ll build better professional connections and receive notifications about jobs related to your field. 

Another perk of LinkedIn: many recruiters consistently use it to find candidates. To attract recruiters looking within your particular field, research keywords that are related to your field and add them to your profile’s bio. By adding relevant keywords, you’ll become more visible to recruiters looking to fill positions specifically in your field. However, tread with caution: some recruiters will still reach out with jobs that aren’t related to your field, so keep a discerning eye when receiving offers to apply. 

Related: The 7 Deadly LinkedIn Sins 

The number one problem shared among entrepreneurs today is finding, vetting, hiring, and retaining expertise.

3. Be picky in jobs.

Let’s face it: everyone needs money, and at some point in the job search any salary will begin to look good. However, jumping at the first offer can be a bad idea and lead you into a job that is underpaid or not aligned with your qualifications. It seems counterintuitive to reject a job offer, especially in the current market, but being picky with jobs will help you eventually land one you truly enjoy. 

If a job seems too good to be true (for example, unusually high salary for entry-level tasks), then you should probably pass. There’s a good chance that your gut feeling is right, and it’s possible the company is exaggerating the tasks or potential salary to attract candidates to a less-than-desirable job. Don’t worry: there are plenty of amazing open roles to come, and you’ll be better off for it. 

Related: 7 Red Flags Warning You to Turn Down That Job Offer 

4. Professional development/reskilling is always an option. 

Underemployment doesn’t only exist within the beginning of a career: it can happen at any time, in any job. A few signs you’re underemployed in your current job is feeling under-utilized in terms of skill, being underpaid or working less than usual (under the direction of supervision). But you don’t have to feel stuck in the cycle- professional development and reskilling can provide an opportunity to rise above.  

Professional development can give you an edge in your current job (or future job search) and provide the opportunity to hone in on desired skills or expand your skill set. Some organizations offer opportunities for development so that employees don’t need to pay and can receive this enrichment to the benefit of the team. Development can help you to improve your results at work and, in turn, increase your chances of moving into a more suitable job or receiving increased pay. 

There are certain situations in which professional development can’t overcome underemployment; if you’ve been feeling stuck for a while in your current job or are finding it extremely difficult to nail a job in your field, it may be time to reskill. Reskilling is defined as learning a new skill, which allows individuals to take on new careers or roles. Luckily, learning a new skill doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, and there are plenty of resources that can make reskilling accessible for every professional.

Related: How to Build the Right Mindset to Change Careers and Learn New Skills Fast  

There’s no doubt that at some point, most professionals experience underemployment in some form, but it doesn’t have to feel like a death sentence to your career. From the beginning of a job search to the middle of a career, there are plenty of ways to avoid and overcome underemployment, with the most effective strategy being to trust your instincts and put your professional value above anything else.

To hire the Experts you need, exactly when you need them, visit next.entrepreneur.com to schedule a meeting with our Expert solutions team.

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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.

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The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.

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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.

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The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.

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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.

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As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

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