Underemployed: When The Work Isn’t Enough

Underemployment is defined as not having enough paid work or not making full use of your skills and abilities. Being underemployed is one of the sources of burnout, our blog focus for this month. When you say “underemployed,” the first scenario seems to be the one that comes to mind for most: not making enough money. For anyone who has experienced the later scenario, however, it can be equally frustrating and demotivating. That was me. Using almost none of my skills or abilities, feeling tired every day from trying to keep focused and motivated in a job I knew wasn’t the right fit for me.

The hardest part? Feeling like the Lord had lead me to this job and now I was bored every day. Anyone else struggle with wondering where God is when what he’s called to you isn’t going as expected? I knew he’d told me to take this job so how was it such a poor fit now that I was there?

I’m a fixer by nature so I immediately went to work trying to make my situation better. Writing in a gratitude journal every morning. Reading 3 books a week to keep my mind engaged. Asking for more work and projects. Volunteering to use skills I was afraid I’d lose if I didn’t. Eventually, signing up for a Crossroads Career small group…or trying. As it turned out there wasn’t one available at a time that worked for me so I agreed to lead a group just so I would have the chance to go through the curriculum. I found three other underemployed women and I started a group.

We started our journey and I was convinced the answer I would find was that I needed to change companies and start again. I really had to work at being open minded. You know what’s ironic in hindsight? I was the only one of the four women in my group whose answer turned out to be staying put. One went back to school, one moved to an entirely new state (where she eventually met her now husband), and the third woman I helped find a new job where she doubled her income immediately. Then there was me: I was told to stay.

Don’t fret, this story does in fact have a happy ending. While the Lord didn’t open up a new job for me as a result of my small group, he did open a new role for me within my same company! I was able to negotiate a new title/position with a lot more responsibility and a hefty raise. Better still, my new opportunity came with bosses that were willing to consistently let me say: give me more! Every time I would get my feet underneath me with my workload, they would allow me to take on more. I loved it. It was the biggest opportunity for growth within a company I’ve ever had and it bought be another 5 years before I would move on.

If you’re living where I was—in the land of underemployed—please let me encourage you: do the work, pray, and believe in God’s provision. He shows up. For me, he used Crossroads Career to help me determine what I wanted (anyone else know they want something, but not sure what?) and go after it. The move was a huge win for me personally but also for the company. I was able to take my new department to new levels and eventually take over a second department and restructure it as well.

Ask for opportunities. They exist and there is frequently more work for the willing. However, here’s my caution: being underemployed can make us feel lazy or foster a bad attitude. Resist both of those traps because those are not a quick way to a promotion or new job. We are called as believers to do our work to glorify and honor God, and there’s no clause letting us off the hook when our skills aren’t be utilized. The Bible says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Memorize this and work at it even as you ask, pray, and wait expectantly.

Becca Christensen is a Crossroads Career Board Member and the editor of this blog since 2020. She recently moved into accounting within the automotive industry. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic football fan, and competitive at any and all board games.

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