“Overcoming Underemployment,” Ensign, Apr. 1994, 71–72
These are challenging times. Unemployment in many countries is high, and often even people who are employed find it hard to earn enough to support themselves and their families with the basic necessities, says Bob Jones, a regional bishops’ storehouse manager in the eastern United States.
Deciding how to overcome this problem is a major life decision. If you are having serious trouble making ends meet and providing the necessities for your family even though you avoid unnecessary debt and spending, or if you are trying to avoid underemployment in the future, here are some options that can help you improve your financial picture.
Review your spending habits. Determine how much money you need to survive for one month. Include only necessary expenses—for example, tithing, housing, food, utilities, and commuting expenses. After you make your “survival budget,” make a list of your actual expenses for a month. Compare both lists. Maybe you are spending most of your money for things that aren’t really necessary for survival—and not enough for the things you can’t live without. Changing your spending habits may help you solve your financial problems before they grow too large. A very important question you can ask yourself is if you are paying an honest tithing. The promises God makes are sure: “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).
Upgrade your present job or find a better job. What potential for growth in salary or job upgrade is there in your present employment? Would learning new skills or improving ones you already have increase your chances of receiving a pay raise? Fred Pierce, Jr., a fifteen-year veteran in executive recruitment from Kingwood, Texas, says that a person wanting a better job needs to build a marketing strategy. He suggests determining the kind of job wanted, the salary desired, and the necessary working conditions. “Make a resumé that includes the strengths you possess that will be of benefit in the job you desire. Submit your resumé to the person who will be making the hiring decision. It is amazing the opportunities and jobs that result from knowing what you desire.”
Retrain for a better job. You may find that you don’t have the skills necessary for a better job. If that’s the problem, retraining may be necessary. There are programs within the Church that help people gain needed work skills. There are also many qualified schools that hold classes in the evenings or on weekends. Speak to your ward employment specialist or bishop about retraining options available in your community.
Take on a second job. In many cases, a second job is viable. “But every individual’s circumstances are different,” Bob Jones says. “For older people, those with physical problems, or single parents, a second job might not work. But in the case of a young, strong person with a spouse at home to handle home challenges, a second job can be a possibility.”
Make a career change. “One of the most important considerations when deciding to make a career change is whether it will pay a living wage—that is, a salary that grows through the years,” says Bob Jones. Most people, even college graduates, are going to start working in an entry-level position. Will there be opportunities for advancement in your new career? Use wisdom in your choices, and continue to live within the limits of your paycheck. Changing careers doesn’t automatically ensure a great increase in salary.
Even though we live in challenging times, the payment of an honest tithe, combined with a sound plan and good sense, can help us avoid underemployment as we work toward a sound financial future.—Nadeoui Eden, Bowie, Maryland