Forbes Coaches Council

The Solution For The Overqualified And Underemployed May Be Self-Employment

Overqualified is when you work for someone else and exceed the requirements of that particular job. Underemployment is sometimes hard to classify but, as with many situations, you know it when you experience it.

Underemployment is different than unemployment as it involves employees who have a job but aren’t using their talents or perhaps their education to the fullest. Many people are currently working in positions in which their skills, experience and talent levels far exceed the positions they occupy. And underemployment is on the rise thanks to the pandemic. The Atlantic called underemployment a “crisis.”

It can also describe people who are in the positions that they want to be in despite being unable to work as full-time employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines underemployed people as those who work part-time hours but would like to work full-time. By that definition, there were 4.5 million underemployed Americans in August, according to the most recent BLS numbers.

Those who are underemployed can become frustrated and feel like their careers are unfulfilling. Underemployment occurs in different industries and can impact people regardless of career experience. Many people have the ability and desire to achieve more — they just need to find a better fit for their experience level and skill set.

If you are stuck in a job in which you are overqualified, you may need to think about creating the right job. That is, you could start your own business. How do you know if the time is right, and how do you figure out what type of business to start? As somebody who advises professionals on this all the time, I have some thoughts.

The time is never right.

Most people’s lives can be hectic, and if you wait until everything is perfect, you may be waiting a long time. So don’t get too hung on “the right time.” You may be driven by the excitement of starting a new business or the fear of staying in your current position and what the future holds. If either is the case, then now is probably the right time to start thinking about what is next.

In fact, according to an August 2021 PwC poll of 1,007 full and part-time American workers, 65% of employees are looking for a new job. That means the job market is extremely competitive right now, even with a labor shortage, as people contend for the best positions.

Keep in mind that often the best time to figure out a second act is when your life is in upheaval. According to the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans (66%) have seriously considered changing careers while they were unemployed. It can make a lot of sense to take a calculated risk such as starting a business when you’re in between jobs or underemployed. Sometimes the best time to rock the boat is when the waves are already choppy.

Take time to plan.

You may know exactly what you want to do when starting a business, but plenty of people are unsure when starting off. If that’s you, don’t beat yourself up. There are a lot of paths you can go down; you just have to spend some time finding the right one.

It might help to talk to a career coach. You could also discuss the idea of starting a business with your family and friends, who know you well and may have excellent suggestions on what you should be doing with your life. Mull over whether you want to buy or buy into an existing business, such as a franchise, or start a business from scratch. It is important to consider how much money you’ll be able to invest in your business and start researching how and where you can get business loans.

There is a lot of planning, discussions and research that goes into starting a business. That is often some of the most fun you’ll have as a business owner — planning what you’re going to do. You start with a blank canvas and can paint a business plan however you envision it to be.

Planning time is important. In between researching businesses and doing your due diligence, you are learning and starting to come up with ideas on what your next chapter should be. You may feel a sense of urgency, and while you don’t want to rush your planning, you also don’t want to spend years planning a new business to the point where you only brainstorm and never actually take any action. You want to get your business right, and while it may feel, at times, like you’re spinning your wheels, if you’re continually learning about new businesses and opportunities, then you are likely exactly where you need to be.

Make sure your business aligns with your personal goals.

Figuring out where you want to be in five, 10 or 20 years can really help you decide what type of business you want. After all, some types of business ownership practically require you to be on the premises every minute, while others may involve more of an absentee or part-time role. Other businesses are going to require certain skills or a specific temperament and you want to make sure your personality fits that.

Figuring out a second act isn’t easy, but you want to get it right, so don’t rush into the first business opportunity you see. Like a dead-end job, it’s possible to start a business that generates a lot of revenue but no happiness. In other words, if you aren’t careful, you could feel underemployed in your own company.