Should you take a job that's beneath your skill?

That question needs to be answered with another question: How much do you need the money?

If you need income more than you need to worry about what underemployment does to your resume, then the question is moot. Any job is better than no job, if you need cash.

Career advisor Landa Williams sometimes counsels job hunters who fear that taking an entry-level position will tarnish their career progression.

She acknowledges that holding, say, a part-time retail job may give prospective employers a false impression of your skills, interests and ambition. And it does cut into your job search time, including networking in your target area.

But Williams says the positives of "bridge" or "subsistence" jobs usually outweigh the negatives. Working puts you in contact with other people … who may know people or know of openings that fit your professional goals.

Equally important, a foot in the door lets you show your dependability, talents or self-starting ability. Many promotions come through temp jobs.

Williams shares an example of an unemployed marketing professional who took a part-time coffee shop job. She had a regular customer, a CEO of a nearby company. After several conversations, in which the CEO became aware of her background and personality, he hired her to be a marketing executive.

Admittedly, a better-than-best-case scenario. But it shows that connections can happen in unplanned ways. Even a "dead-end" job may introduce you to people or career paths that you wouldn't know about if you stayed home waiting for the perfect position.

Williams said she hopes employers understand that the recession caused resume gaps for many job hunters who don't want to stay underemployed.

Unfortunately, that kind of understanding isn't always present in the real world. Long-term joblessness presents severe re-employment challenges to many workers.

That's why doing something — anything — is better than having an extended blank on your resume.



Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at The Kansas City Star. Her "Your Job" blog at includes daily posts about job-related issues of wide interest. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or by email at


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