How to Prevent Underemployment and Get Out of Job Jail

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Get Out of Jail Taking a job far beneath your abilities is what author and human resources consultant Audrey LeGrand considers putting yourself in "job jail." She says she's worried less about the unemployed than she is about the underemployed.

"The phenomenon of underemployment affects nearly twice as many Americans as unemployment," she asserts, claiming that the underemployment rate for Americans has leapt from just under 10 percent in 2007 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, underemployment is a category that includes, but is not limited to, people who are unemployed, or who have a job but still cannot make ends meet.

LeGrand, author of 'How To Get Out of Job Jail: Eight Ways To Have The Career You've Always Wanted,' has worked with clients including Bellsouth, IBM, SunTrust Bank and many others. She believes that your resume is your first line of defense for preventing being incarcerated in the "job jail" of underemployment.

"Your resume could be landing in the recycle bin across corporate America because it was not thought out, laid-out, or carried out correctly," she said. "Job jail is a particularly sneaky trap, because many of us land in it without ever realizing it. Whether our hours have been shaved from full time to part time or we've struggled just to get two low-paying jobs to replace the one higher-paying job we once had, it can be almost impossible to escape once you've been locked in that cell. The first thing we should all do in the new year is to take a new look at our resumes, because they represent the first time a potential employer considers us for a new job."

LeGrand's tips for resume health include:

  • Appearance: Check for typos, grammatical errors. Use spell check and ask someone else to read it. Human resources professionals will many times summarily dismiss a qualified candidate because their resumes were rife with simple grammar and spelling errors. Take extra care to be articulate and informative with your resume.
  • Size: Don't use such a small font that your resume is difficult to read. If your background is so extensive that it will take 2 full pages to lay it out, use the space wisely.
  • Ethics: Don't fudge dates of employment, degrees earned or career accomplishments. If a prospective employer conducts a background check, you'll lose that particular job opportunity.
  • Target: Don't just e-mail your resume to every electronically posted position. Narrow your search for exactly what you want and what you're qualified for. Don't waste your time or the recruiters'.
  • Statement: Tell them why you are the best choice -- don't just copy your current job description. Show what you have accomplished in your previous position and why you are more qualified than the competition for the positions you are seeking.

"Cheating on professional resumes has become a commonplace activity, but that does not make it right," LeGrand advised. "When job candidates are deceptive or less than honest, it simply makes it more difficult for job seekers who have been honest and forthcoming about their qualifications. Perpetrators are almost always caught."

Next: The Faces of Unemployment

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