Why I Choose to be Underemployed

blue haired woman

At the interview for my part-time job, the Director made it perfectly clear I was the most unlikely candidate he had ever interviewed. He was impressed by my qualifications and intelligence, but confused as to why I would want to work for him.

“You do realise you’re over-qualified for this position?” he pointed out. “Why would you want this job? Why not find something where you can actually use your degrees?” He then spent the next five minutes trying to convince me not to take the job, but ultimately hired me anyway.

Family and friends were no less confused. When I shared my excitement for landing my first non-freelance job in America, they were ecstatic. As soon as I told them what I planned on doing, the responses were mostly the same.

At first there was the initial shock, followed by the subtle implication that I deserve better; that I am too smart and too educated. Why not go back to payroll, where I can bring home up to $70,000 per year? Or why not apply for a job at a marketing or PR firm, since that’s what I love?

These are all sensible suggestions of course. So let me explain why – for at least the next year – I’ll be disregarding all of them.

Freedom

One of the main themes I’ve constantly revisited on my blog is freedom: freedom to explore, to make my own decisions, to carve out time for my creative pursuits, and to do what I love for a living. After a year of this, why would I be in any great rush to return to corporate?

The truth is, I don’t need to. I’m 100 percent debt free, and live simply in a 600-square-foot home. This gives me the luxury of passing up on corporate offers to make time for other important things – like travel.

Entrepreneurship

Another reason I deliberately chose a part-time job with few demands is that it leaves me plenty of time and energy to build a career. If I give 40 hours or more per week to build someone else’s company, and someone else’s dream, what will I be left with to build my own? Been there – done that. Hopefully, never again.

Even while working three shifts in two days last weekend, I still found time to dedicate to my hobbies and creative pursuits. I had the creative energy to work on posts like this, to complete assignments for clients, to edit my novels, and to lose myself in a book each night before bed.

Safety Net

As much as I love working on my own business, there’s one thing to be said of freelancing: there’s no such thing as a steady paycheck. I’ve had clients who refused to pay, who forgot to pay, and who tried to pay but then the check got lost in the mail.

Even with the best of clients, workload varies month-by-month and even day-by-day. This makes it difficult to plan ahead for regular expenses, like rent, utilities, and car payments. Bills wait for no man – or woman.

Thus, my part-time job helps me meet my financial obligations every month, while still leaving me plenty of time to do the things I love, with the people who love me.

Résumé Boost

Another great benefit of my job is the brand. I work for one company that provides a service for another. My employer is the largest in its industry in all of North America; and the client is a Fortune 500 company, occupying a beautiful skyscraper in the heart of the city.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned about doing PR and marketing work, it’s that brands can make all the difference in a résumé. It’s one thing to do IT work at a local office, for instance, but a whole other ball game to be the technician on call for Bank of America or Google.

So should my entrepreneurial ventures prove unsuccessful, I’m building a résumé to be reckoned with.

Networking Opportunities

Along with the prestigious place my employer and their client hold in the marketplace, their business is located in a wealthy part of town. This provides great opportunities to network with gatekeepers to success.

One of the ladies, for instance, recently went from working at the lobby to doing admin work in the office of a prestigious law firm. She met her new employer at her post, in the building.

Of course, I have no intention of being poached anytime soon, but making the right connections is an integral part of growing in any industry. Who knows? If I play my cards right, I could land my own Fortune 500 client, so I can put my feet up and relax.

People will no doubt continue to puzzle themselves with my decision. Some may even call it irresponsible – and that’s fine. Here’s the reality: I have no kids, no debt, already completed two college degrees, started my own business at 16, and have had the pleasure of watching it grow exponentially over the past year.

In short, I’ve spent the past 27 years doing the things I had to, so that at this point in my life, I can do exactly as I like.

How’s that for a measure of success? 

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88 thoughts on “Why I Choose to be Underemployed

  1. Sounds perfect. I’m so tired of people asking why I’m ‘not using’ my degree… I’m choosing not to! If I wanted to I would, but I value other things more. Full time work gave me no time or energy to build the things I really want to do (like blogging!). Glad its working out for you.

    1. Well I use my degree. I worked 60 hours this week and only 24 of those hours are from the job that under-employs me. I figured I paid for it, so I’m using it. I did business and run/own a business.

      But I can definitely understand having a degree and then doing something else totally unrelated. Do what makes you happy. 🙂

      1. Yeah, I studied maths, which was great, but turns out I don’t really want to do any of the careers that leads to. Though I do use the problem solving / thinking skills it nurtured all the time. Live and learn!

      2. Nah, I don’t have the personality/desire/will to be a mathematician – it involves trying to prove something that may or may not be true, and may or may not be provable… possibly for years, and having no idea if all of your work will ever get you anywhere. And even if you do prove something, it might be 200 years before anything useful comes of it in the physical world. Takes a special kind of dedication, that! Theoretically being an academic sounds great, just not a mathematician!

  2. I spent my whole working life being “underemployed” and happy. Each year I checked and I never made more money than my alma mater charged that year for tuition! But I loved what I did and had lots of opportunities to be a mom and a civic activist(both of which pay nothing in cash.)

  3. This was exactly what I needed to read. Im at one of those cross roads and reading your thought process, laid out in this manner, is very helpful.Thank you for sharing! Also, it was very well written and clear!😊

  4. Love. This. Post!
    As previous bloggers have stated…. I am underemployed as well and in a different field from what I am “degreed” in. I stumbled upon my current job pretty much by mistake and at first promised myself I would leave quick BUT since being there, this is my first job that I have energy left over to be ME and not a robot. Not sure whether I’ll retire here, but for now- it just works. I applaud your courage and love for self! You’re debt free…. wow! That’s freedom!

    1. Haha thank you. Yes, I didn’t take out any student loans, and have never owned a credit card. I’m taking on a tiny debt for a second hand car next year though, but I’m sure I’ll pay that off in no time.

      I’m glad to know you and so many other bloggers traveled this pathway to their own personal happiness and success. That’s really awesome! So happy to hear from you guys. 🙂

      1. Yeah, my parents tried to talk me into taking them. I told my mom if they can’t afford tuition now, I can’t afford tuition+interest later and threatened not to go to college. Needless to say, I won haha

  5. Bravo!!
    I have been a freelancer for quite a while now and I have never been so free and slightly-above-broke. 🙂 Thanks heaps for pointing out the Safety Net though or the lack of it.

    1. Yes, it’s not always ideal, for sure. But if you’re in it, make the best of it. I want to be underemployed in one job, so I can focus my energies on the second. Content strategy is a really demanding field, especially when you have clients and not a 9-5 at a brick and mortar building.

      All the best!

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