Should I Go for Underemployed this Time?

A woman seeks advice about whether or not to accept job offers that are beneath her.

Your Career Coach

Better to be Underemployed or Unemployed?

Dear Michele,

I am a 38-year-old female architect. I have just been made redundant from a company that I had only been with for eight months; I held an associate position in the firm. I left an associate director role to join the firm because it was sold as a position that would quickly escalate to “director” level. Obviously that hasn’t happened and I am now in the job market in a dreadful time!

I have two offers that are both lesser roles than I had four years ago, and part of me says, “it’s a job” and the other part of me says, “hold out” otherwise my resume will suffer for the future … which part of me should I follow?? Do you think that future employers will understand that the market pushed me into this situation? I could hold out until mid-Jan but everything is slowing down for holiday.

— Designer

Dear Designer,

I think that in the future employers will look at this recessionary period and completely understand what the deal was when people were laid off, unemployed or underemployed. Sadly, it’s becoming such a common story that everyone can understand it.

So, I think new rules will apply. Key among the new rules is: It’s better to have a job than have no job. Especially in the architecture field, which is hit hard by the housing slowdown. If the job you’re considering has the kind of benefits that you need, and the kind of work you can do well, think hard about taking it. And if the work is kind of easy, use all that spare time to consciously build a strong professional network — for help with that process, check out Liz Lynch’s great new book Smart Networking. In difficult economic times, your professional standing can make all the difference to your future prospects. Good luck.

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