Despite all the measurements of how many people are working, in what fields they are working, how many are seeking jobs, and how many have given up, one aspect of the nation's work life remains obscure: misemployment.
It occurs when people have jobs that do not match their skills or their interests - the wrong jobs.
A 2007 survey by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray, and Christmas Inc. in Chicago showed that as many as 25 percent of employees regret taking a new position within the first year of tenure.
Some of that is the natural tendency to have second thoughts after any major change, said John Challenger, the company's chief executive officer.
But if, after six months, any of the following are true, a job may be a bad fit:
•The position does not match expectations.
Perhaps the employee misunderstood the job description; perhaps the tasks involved have changed.
•Differences with supervisor(s).
The cordiality of the interview has given way to tension or even outright hostility.
•Bad interactions with co-workers.
No rule says the workplace must be a second family. But it should not be characterized by animosity.
•Doing the job poorly.
•Doing the job well but not caring about quality.
Sometimes being in the wrong job is not so much a matter of doing the wrong work as it is a matter of doing it in the wrong place, a place where the employee does not fit the corporate culture.
In an interview, Mr. Challenger suggested anyone who concludes he is misemployed should first try to resolve specific issues contributing to the dissatisfaction.
"Maybe there's a way to sit down with your boss and put water under the bridge," he said. If that doesn't work, "It might be imperative to look for a job while you're working."
Sometimes the job producing the dissatisfaction is not even close to the work truly desired.
In one instance, a payroll clerk discovered that she loved home renovations and interior design and landed a job at a big-box home improvement store.
In another, an indoor sales representative with a love for the outdoors charted a course to becoming the owner of a kayak-rental shop.
"Every time people set aside their fears and do what they know they should be doing, they are always ecstatically happy," said Chris Posti, a career coach in Green Tree, Pa. "I wish more people would do it."
Block News Alliance is made up of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Elwin Green is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
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