According to the Accenture Strategy 2016 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study, 51% of class of 2014 and 2015 graduates think they are underemployed in their current job. This number has steadily climbed in the four years Accenture has been conducting the survey — up from 41% in 2013.
The above statistics were the inspiration for my recent Forbes post on how to stay competitive when you’re underemployed:
While the survey and the post is targeted to recent graduates, underemployment occurs at the mid and late stages of a career as well (and the six recommendations I make for staying competitive apply to experienced professionals too). If you’re not proactively focused on growing your skills or expanding your scope of responsibility, then as you get more efficient on the job, you need less energy to do just as much. You start to “coast” on the job, which can be fine for a time (in fact, resting on your laurels can even be beneficial), but eventually your skills will atrophy, your attention will wane, and you risk becoming irrelevant.
So how can you keep your skills sharp when your job doesn’t provide the challenge? You’ll have to make your own challenges:
- Join a Board.
- Be a mentor.
- Guest lecture at your alma mater (that will force you to hone in on your expertise!).
- Attend a conference.
- Speak at a conference.
- Organize a conference.
- Read blogs and listen to podcasts outside your typical area (right now I’m listening to the Hay House Summit, which is very different from my left brain tendencies).
- Throw your efforts into a personal interest (I’m on a kick researching extended travel/ living abroad – perhaps it’s the very late arrival of spring in NYC)
- Start a side business (or volunteer, using organizations like Taproot to help you find substantive roles)
There is no shortage of ways to flex your skills and expertise even if your current job doesn’t fit the bill. While it will take some willpower on your part, the upside is a more active and fulfilling life and a stronger, more competitive career. The market is better than it was a few years ago, but it’s still volatile, and you want to be job-search ready at a moment’s notice.
What’s your favorite activity for keeping your skills sharp?