Tackling Underemployment: Part 2

In the last blog post (“Are You Underemployed?”) we discussed the various ways one can be underemployed. No doubt it can be discouraging, but it’s not impossible to overcome. You must continue to work toward your career goals and don’t become paralyzed by your situation. If you remain in underemployed status for too long you may experience long-term limits on your income and career.

###Put Your Military Mindset to Work

If you need to make ends meet, it’s okay to take a job that doesn’t use your skills and education to the fullest. However, success is all about your outlook and your effort. Viewing your current situation as temporary is critical as you put in the work that will move you along.

###Change ABC to ABN

In the world of sales, the key acronym is ABC – “Always Be Closing.” If you are a veteran job seeker, embrace a new one: ABN, or “Always Be NETWORKING.” Mobilize and network with your peers and join online groups. Career fairs also provide a perfect forum for networking, whether you’re actively seeking employment or not. Challenge yourself to have a certain number of solid conversations at each career fair you attend. Exchange contact information. You never know which connection will lead to an opportunity.

###Do the Hustle

The military culture rewards those who hustle. Apply that mindset to your current situation. Remember, you don’t have to stay within the parameters of your job description. Make yourself indispensable. Volunteer for assignments that go beyond your formal job description.

“Most people don’t want to do that because it seems like extra work,” admits one Air Force veteran, “but I saw it as an opportunity to learn new skills that I could use to market myself.” So, he volunteered to participate in the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO 21) – a military version of the Lean Six Sigma program. He attended for free and earned a certification.

Is there a process or procedure that could be made better? Come up with a plan of attack and offer to take on the task. Try to expand your responsibilities and experiences so you can learn as much as possible while you’re there.

###Track and Emphasize

Veterans are well-organized and knew how to create frameworks, timelines and requirements – all skills that are valuable to employers. They also know about compliance, standards and evaluation. When companies hire a veteran, they gain someone with finely honed organizational skills, who can create a process for everything and effectively manage time.

Yes, it can be hard for a transitioning military veteran to shift gears from a team dynamic to “tooting your own horn” about individual achievements. Make notes after each mission or exercise about your efforts and how they contributed to the mission’s overall success.

Tracking your projects pays off. Lots of military work is project-based. Be sure to track, categorize, and keep detailed notes on all the projects you worked on. “I earned my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification using project hours I earned while still in the Air Force,” said one veteran.

###Use What You Have and Get More

The phrase “Use it or lose it” could not be truer here. Are there out-of-the-box ways to use your talents that will help keep your skills fresh? Take advantage of them. In addition, keep an eye out for trends in your desired profession. What technology skills will you need? Does your current employer offer any training or educational opportunities?

Join a professional organization. This can be a great way to begin building civilian networks and get discounts to certification training and test.

Additionally, the military culture prizes mentoring. Find someone in your network to bounce ideas from and answer questions.