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Thoughts around a generation's journey to adulting...

Entry-level Thinking vs Underemployment

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I am continually struck by how dismissive people can be of modest or minimally skilled work.  
 
Over the past 40 years we have had a national obsession that everyone should get a college degree and then do “professional” work (whatever that means).   Kids hear that they must have “internships” on their resume in order to be considered for meaningful roles later on.  And well-intentioned parents often reinforce that thinking.  
 
So young adults are taught to seek “resume-building” work — and that lesser, hourly wage jobs may help pay the bills but are uninteresting and have little personal development value.  And when people do minimally skilled hourly work, society bemoans that as “underemployment.”  As a result, we have a generation of young people who learned to be dismissive of time spent in hourly work, to treat it as low value, not worthy of their best efforts, and even embarrassing.  
 
I counsel my clients that the difference between “internships” and simple hourly jobs is 100% in the eye of the beholder.  When a person approaches any job with focus, curiosity and ambition, that work comes to life for them and can pay benefits far beyond the hourly wage.    
 
Working at McDonalds, Kroger’s or Amazon offers valid (and transferrable) professional development experiences including customer service, following procedures, teamwork, and problem solving. Dealing with bad managers is even great experience. Working there for an extended period gives evidence that a person is dependable. Further, if the young employee makes the effort at the time to really consider the business model or work at hand – asking questions and making suggestions – the life value of the experience multiplies.  
 
Employers like job candidates who have gained practical experience doing modest hourly work in the real world.  Most hiring managers and department heads themselves did hourly work way back when.  So, time spent in modest work is a good thing on an application – not a liability.  
 
Further, hourly work or modest roles (e.g., admin assistant) can be great entrée points into companies or industries of interest. If a young person identifies a line of work that might have long-term promise for them – and no “professional” roles are available – they should consider getting on board in a modest role, working hard, making friends, and learning the business from the ground up.  Before long opportunities will open for them internally that they never would have accessed (or been prepared for) otherwise.

(check out a recent post about career coaching for young adults)

Anyone who would like to connect with me or explore these topics more is invited to visit my website at www.otoolecoaching.com

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Martin O'Toole

Marty is a great listener who asks a lot of curious questions. When he asks about your day or how you are doing, he really wants to know. And he comes equipped with a supply of anecdotes and stories that keep the time together interesting.

He is practical and results-oriented. He believes in showing up every day to do the work and learning by experience. He preaches action orientation, resilience, entrepreneurship, and the importance of good decision-making.