I am underemployed. I have been unemployed. The news these days is filled with stats on people like me, but I want you to know what it is like.
I lost my job in late 2009, without warning, thanks to the economy. I have a BA from a very good school and a JD. I've passed the bar exam. I have good references, and I have experience. But, what people don't understand is that these qualifications don't GUARANTEE me success. It doesn't necessarily make my job search any easier. Just because I'm not where you expect me to be does not mean I'm a bad person or lazy.
Though I am employed today (part-time), I am underemployed. I'm using my degree a bit, but the position is low hours and not permanent. I am incredibly thankful for this position, but it's difficult to talk to people about my job situation right now. It's inevitably met with "Why aren't you working more?" and "Why are you working there?" and then advice (and more advice... and even more advice) about what to do.
What they don't understand, however great their intentions, is that I have two competing balances--- to myself and to my well-being. For myself: I'd love to work somewhere else, full-time, and doing what I love. But, for my well-being: that job might never come. Despite the best of qualifications, I might not ever get there. And, I need to survive in the meantime (or forever, whichever it might be).
What I wish people would do is not assume. Please don't assume I'm unhappy because I'm not in a position that YOU thought I'd be. Please don't assume I feel bad. Please don't assume I want to talk about it. Believe me, I've beat myself up and down. I have to try to feel good about myself. I have good days and bad. I have days where I feel stupid for not being able to find a better job.... there are days where I scan Craigslist and other sources for ANYTHING and want to cry when there are no jobs I qualify for... and know that other jobs I apply to I will be turned away from for being "overqualified." I've thought about hiding my experience and my degrees on my resume and applying for other positions, but I'm not to that point yet. It makes me hopeful and incredibly sad to think about hiding things which took me decades to accomplish.
But please, I don't need or want your judgment. I'd love you to be proud of me-- I'm making it work. Of course I'm looking for other jobs. But, what I need from you right now is the support of reminding me that I'm not a bad person... not another person spouting advice and judgment. I would love you to be sensitive to the fact that this is a hard time for me. I am so proud of you and your job... but I might not want to talk about it for hours. Is that ok?
I've had to put so many things on the back burner. Children. Trips. Family. Please be sensitive to that and stop asking me when I will have kids and reminding me that I'm not growing any younger.
What I want you to do the most: Put yourself in my shoes. You'll realize that I'm doing the best I can, I have a strong will to get out of this, and I have a determined smile on my face. But, that doesn't mean I need your judgment or advice. I need friends who are proud of me for what and where I am, not judgmental for what and where I am not.