It’s a question always on our minds, yet it’s rarely quantified by the media: are we in the wrong job? And this is curious, because we seem a culture absolutely enamored with percentages: the percentage of people who use public transportation, or have a college degree. The percentage of people who prefer lattés to cappuccinos, or would pick Justin Bieber over PSY for a night of musical carnage. Clearly then, percentages are not only hugely important in our everyday lives, we thrive on them. Especially when it comes to the job market, and especially when it involves the unemployment rate, since it’s definitely one of the most important figures in the entire universe. Except that it isn’t. Not even slightly. Because it doesn’t tell you a thing about the underemployment rate. Or the malemployment rate. And that matters. Because those percentages are rather harder to come by. And they tell you something far more enlightening. They tell you whether people have given up looking for work. Or whether people are employed in the wrong job. And that matters. That matters a lot.
Take, for instance, the so-called “Great Recession” that slowed the U.S. economy to a crawl in 2008. In July 2011, the media reported the unemployment rate to be 9.1%. But “unemployed,” for purposes of those 9.1 percentage points, was defined roughly as “those people who are without employment, and actively looking for employment, and receiving government aid for their unemployment.” But that’s a bit like defining “homeless” as “those people who are without shelter, and actively looking for shelter, and receiving government housing.” What about everyone else who, tragically, have completely given up looking for work or housing, those people who have just removed themselves from the talent pool altogether, or have succumbed to perpetual life on the streets and are not receiving any government aid? It understates the grim realities of life by an insultingly unfair margin: to exclude people from a statistical calculation of such grand importance is like sticking one’s head in the sand, with blindfolds and earplugs. It’s socially irresponsible and it’s inexcusable.
And if you suspect that interpretation of “unemployed” would skew the results slightly lower than the true value, you’d be wrong: it skews them much lower. The so-called “real” unemployment rate in July 2011 was actually closer to 16.1%. That’s a huge difference.
Put another way then, in 2011, the real employment rate was a staggering 78% higher than the reported unemployment rate of 9.1%. If we assume roughly the same discrepancy, then today’s reported unemployment rate – currently hovering around 7.2% – would yield a real unemployment rate of 12.9%. That’s a lot more percentage points for a culture that loves to keep track of such things.
The problem with so-called malemployment then, should be painfully clear now: obviously, it shouldn’t be included in the real unemployment rate calculation — after all, malemployed people are still legitimately employed, albeit in the wrong job — but it says a great deal about the overall health of a country’s work culture and, indisputably, about its overall psychological wellbeing: unhappy workers are unhappy people, and that makes for an unhappy society generally.
Unfortunately, the problem of malemployment is a tricky one to solve, as it stems from archaic ongoing job market practices that have little way of ensuring that job candidates really are a good fit for a given job. Obviously, we at Venturocket are doing our part to help remedy this problem, but in the meantime, a bit of self-assessing to determine whether you are in the wrong job could go a long way towards improving your life.
Fortunately, Bruce Kasanoff just published a fantastic article on precisely this matter and suggested the following eight questions to ask yourself:
- Do people seek you out for your expertise related to your job role?
- Do people who depend upon you praise you for your work?
- Is your job “just right,” i.e., you are neither overwhelmed nor bored?
- Does your job allow you to grow to more relevant and meaningful positions within the company?
- Does your job inspire you to learn?
- Is your salary sufficient for your lifestyle, and are you comfortable with it?
- Is your job a good fit for who you are and for your self-image?
- Do you feel thankful for your job?
So take a moment, stop and reflect on your present job, and ask yourself each of those eight questions. You may just find yourself in the right job after all, and in the process, add a few more percentage points to the happier side of certain surveys.
And let us know in the comments: do you think you’re in the wrong job? Why or why not?