With the amount of time and effort it takes to obtain a college degree, it's understandable that most students view graduation as a light at the end of the tunnel. Once you get your hands on that diploma, you can go out and make your impact on the world.
Unfortunately, that's become a far more difficult feat as of late. Studies show that more and more college graduates are finding themselves underemployed. This means that they’re landing jobs that don’t require diplomas and don't utilize the skills they’ve spent years nurturing.
If you’ve found yourself in a job you’re overqualified for, you know it can be a frustrating experience. Not only does it seem like you’ve wasted money and time, but it forces you to into a daily routine of unchallenging and meaningless labor. That's not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in.
So what can you do to cope with this?
1. Accept that it's probably not about you.
This is easier said than done. With such a heavy insistence on the idea that hard work leads to success, it's natural to attribute failures to your work ethic. Maybe if you'd interned a little longer or gotten an A on that exam, then you'd be working at your dream job.
But with the number of job applicants far outstripping the number of jobs on the market, it's necessary to remind yourself that the rejection isn't personal. You're not alone in underemployment, and you probably aren't the cause of it. There are loads of other factors at play...including plain old luck.
2. Try to make the best of the situation.
Moping around your workplace letting everyone know how miserable you are does little to rectify the problem. In fact, dwelling on your unhappiness might even magnify it.
Instead, try looking for the positives in your situation. Do you have a flexible schedule? An easy workload? Compassionate coworkers? There's bound to be a silver lining when it comes to your current position, so focus on that until you no longer need to.
3. Offer to take on tasks beyond your job description.
If you're working at a job you hate, the last thing you want to do is take on more responsibilities. But showing your supervisors that you're capable of duties beyond your current role could be the key to moving on. If you make them aware that you're overqualified, they might help you find a better fit for your skills.
And even if you aren't interested in climbing the ladder at your current company, learning new skills never hurts. You can list these on your resume, morphing them into transferable skills for more desirable openings. Everybody wins!
4. Find hobbies that give you the meaning you're looking for.
Most of us would do anything to wake up every morning and feel a sense of purpose. We crave careers that hold meaning for ourselves and others.
Realize that your job isn't the only place you can find fulfillment. Hobbies can fill that gap, sometimes better than any professional endeavor. So if you're interested in making political changes or advocating for a cause, volunteer. If you'd rather be making art, go do that after work.
Whatever it is, find what you love and own it. Bonus points if you can add it to your resume!
5. Don't give up on searching for something better.
Job hunting can be a dismal affair, especially if you're continually being bombarded with rejection e-mails. With hundreds of other applicants and insane experience requirements, it often feels like the odds are stacked against you.
Don't stop trying. If you allow the lack of job prospects to discourage you, you're bound to become comfortable where you are. Then you'll never be rid of your unwanted job. So keep looking.
6. Get networking.
Building relationships serve two functions when you're unhappy with your job. For starters, supporters are crucial when you're going through difficult times. Even if your friends and family members can do nothing to change the situation, venting to them can lift a significant amount of weight from your shoulders.
Networking can also open doors to new and better opportunities. If you're interested in pursuing a different career path, try connecting with people who have successfully secured jobs in that field.
And never stay silent about your actual goals. You don't have to shout about hating your current role, but you should let people know where you'd like to be in a few years. You never know who can help you get there.
7. Treat yourself as often as possible.
If you're unhappy, it's totally justifiable to take a few dollars out of your earnings and cheer yourself up. You don't have to spend the money on anything extravagant. If you're determined to go on a shopping spree, so be it. But even an iced coffee will suffice.
Heck, you don't even need to spend money to treat yourself. Give yourself an evening off. Crank up the tunes, prepare a bubble bath and relax.
8. Take classes to gain more skills.
If you're able to, sign up for Continuing Education classes. Plenty of colleges offer them, and they allow you to learn practical skills within the field you're interested in. Not only do such skills make great resume fodder, but the connections you make in these classes could prove valuable in the future.
Even if you don't have the time or funds to enroll in Continuing Education, there are plenty of websites that offer free or discounted lessons. You can utilize these to learn anything from Microsoft to HTML.
9. Put things in perspective.
We're all in a rush. We're hurrying to become managers. We're racing to get married and have kids. We're itching to buy our own cars and homes.
Teach yourself patience. No one wakes up at their dream job the morning after college graduation. These things take time. Let them.
10. Focus on outside goals.
Your career is a huge part of your life, but it isn't the only part. Make a list of other things you want to accomplish. Have you been trying to exercise more or implement a diet? Are you looking to move out of your parents' home or start a new chapter with your significant other?
Find a goal separate from your career, and focus on that for the time being. This goal can be as large or small as you choose. Work on this, and you can always return to your career-oriented objectives at a later date...possibly after you've tried some of the suggestions on this list!
11. Stop defining yourself by your career.
We have a tendency to define ourselves by our professions, despite the fact that there's much more to us than that. This mindset can be incredibly unhealthy for someone who is unsatisfied with their job. If you are your job, and you don't like your job, you start to dislike yourself.
Practice defining yourself by other means. Friend. Parent. Sibling. Dog owner. Cat lady. Sports fan. Gamer. Reader. Pizza lover. Coffee enthusiast. Go wild.
The sooner you're able to separate yourself from your job, the better you'll feel. You can only do so much about your current employment, but you can always choose to focus on the more enjoyable facets of yourself and your life.