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Challenges of Recent Graduate Underemployment

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Challenges of Recent Graduate Underemployment

One of the hardest parts about graduating college is the process of finding and landing your first job. Unfortunately, for many recent graduates the reality is that this first job is likely going to leave you underemployed. Being underemployed typically means your job will not offer you a high-paying salary or even a comprehensive package of benefits and perks. This may be hard to take after spending four years working toward a degree.

While underemployment is certainly not ideal, it is better than unemployment. You will still be working, still making some amount of money, still building your resume. You have to keep in mind that any work experience, whether you think it is beneath you or not, has the potential to help mold you into a successful employee in the future at a job that means something to you.

With that said, there are certain challenges that come with being underemployed that you need to know and understand. Once you know these challenges, you can embrace the opportunity and face those challenges head-on knowing that someday this experience will advance your career.

Underemployment Challenges for Recent Graduates

Before you accept a position that leaves you underemployed, it helps to know what kinds of challenges are in front of you. Once you understand these challenges, you can begin working through them and actually make a difference in your work life.

First of all, you need to understand that every underemployment position is slightly different and offers up unique challenges. However, you can prepare for certain challenges. The more you know ahead of time, the better off you are going to be while actually working.

To help you prepare, here are a few of the challenges of recent graduate underemployment.

Income: Many positions that leave you underemployed will not offer a great deal of compensation. Whether you are earning an hourly wage or working as an intern, your income will not leave you a lot of money for going out on the town every night. However, you need to keep in mind that the experiences you are gaining while being underemployed will most likely help you in your future career.

Benefits: It is also likely that you will not receive such benefits as insurance, paid time off, bonuses, or any other perks that might be found in a salaried position. However, even if your job does not offer you benefits, you can still find health insurance.

For instance, if you are under the age of 26, there is a good chance that you can stay on your parents’ insurance plan. Or, if you are over the age of 26, then you can purchase an affordable short-term medical insurance plan that will keep you covered until you find a more permanent job that offers a healthcare plan.

Time: If you earn an hourly wage or work as an intern, there is a good chance that the money you are paid will not meet your expectations. Part-time jobs may not even be able to offer you many hours. This is frustrating and challenging. Just know that you will not be in this position forever.

Discouragement: One of the most difficult challenges of being underemployed is becoming discouraged. Whether it is caused by one of the challenges above, by your coworkers, or the fact that you can do more responsible work than you are given, you will most likely become discouraged at some point. When this does happen, it is best to tell yourself that things will get better and that you are working for your future.


One of the more common ways recent graduates experience underemployment is through participating in internships. While some students participate in internships during school or summer breaks, some choose to wait until after school to work as an intern.

While these opportunities will provide you with firsthand experiences, you need to understand that as someone who is not a student, you might face some major challenges during an internship.

Working Under People: One of the hardest parts about an internship can be your manager. When you participate in an internship while you are still in school, it is used to learn about a field in which you are interested. However, after you have already graduated, you are still looking for learning opportunities.

You are also looking for real world experience from your internship, however. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that, and you may end up performing grunt work or taking care of tasks that an actual paid entry-level employee would have traditionally done. This can be frustrating. The best way to deal with this is to take everything they try to teach you and learn something from it.

Income: Again, as an intern you should not expect to make a lot of money. However, since you have now graduated and have expenses, you really need to find an internship that offers a decent stipend. If you find that your internship is not providing you with enough compensation, then you should either find a part-time job or leave your internship for a position that pays more. It is usually not worth staying with your internship if it means you go into more debt.

More Experiences: As mentioned above, not every internship provides a wide variety of experiences. However, no matter how limited your experiences or tasks may be, you should really take ownership of those tasks and wring the most from each experience. So, if you are only required to perform one task or work on one project, then make sure you do your best at all times and ensure the outcome is great.

Moving Back Home

Underemployment can be completely unpredictable and hard to handle, depending on your situation. Recent graduates who find themselves underemployed will often struggle to find affordable housing. Because of this, you may have to move back home. You should know that moving back home is not all that bad. In fact, here are some benefits you may find from moving back home.

Save Money: The most obvious benefit of moving back home after graduation is that you will be able to save money. Because your parents will not charge you rent—or if they do it will not be that much—you will be able to save money. More than that, most of your expenses will be cut down because your parents, more likely than not, will be willing to help you.

Allows You to Pursue Your Career: When you move back home, you provide yourself the chance to be underemployed for a while, which could eventually lead to the perfect job. An internship could be exactly what you need to really boost your future career, and living at home will allow you to participate in one.

Support System: Your family has most likely been an important support system for you. During the transition period from graduation to full-time employment, you are most likely going to need that support. If you find yourself underemployed, you are going to need them even more.

Life After College

Life after college may not be exactly what you imagined, but no matter how different life actually is, it is important for you to remember to keep on going. During your transitional period right after school, you may find yourself discouraged. However, with some hard work and the right opportunities, you can land that job you want, afford a nice apartment, and pay off your student loans. Here is some advice for making life after college a success.

Follow Your Passions: Your passions may not always bring in the most amount of money, but if you stick with them and really commit yourself, then you could just turn a passion into a full-time career. Be sure that you pursue your dreams, and do your best to stay true to what you want in life.

Avoid Debt: You are going to leave college with some amount of debt from student loans. These can take some time to pay off, so you should avoid adding to your debt. Do not run out and buy a new car or use credit cards to buy everything.

Pay Your Bills on Time: It is extremely important to make sure you pay all of your bills on time. If you do not, then you will end up paying late fees, which will cost you more in the end. If you find you are having a hard time paying your bills because of underemployment, make sure you talk to your student loan provider and your parents.

Save Money As Frequently As Possible: While you may be underemployed and your income may be small, it is always a good idea to save money when you have the chance. Saving money means you have a backup system in place in the event of an emergency. If you need your car to get to work, and your car breaks down and needs expensive replacement parts, you will be happy you squirreled away some cash every month.


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