Jullien Gordon on Why Underemployment Limits Career Potential

In Chapter 8 of 14 of his 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, motivation teacher Jullien Gordon shares why underemployment, where employees are not engaged, using their passions, and reaching their potential. Gordon believes that creating clarity of purpose allows individuals to align with the right professional role and create the most value. Gordon holds an MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University and a BA from UCLA.


Erik Michielsen:  What is underemployment and why do you see this as being such a massive problem today?

Jullien Gordon:  Oh, man! Underemployment is the biggest problem in the world today and I’ll tell you why.  A lot of people think unemployment is the metric for a bad economy, right?  But if you look at the economy only 10% are unemployed, and that’s a lot of people, but when you think about it – when you look at research from Gallop and other statistics, in fact 50% of employees are underemployed.  Which means that they are not using their passions, they’re not reaching their full potential, they’re not making the highest contribution, therefore they’re definitely not creating the most value possible for the organization that they’re in.  A lot of us don’t even know how we end up on certain career paths, we just know we’re not happy there.  You probably hear once a day people say, ‘I have my job.’ Right?  You just look at people on the subway you know how many people hate their jobs.  The actual economy suffers when you have somebody who actually wants to be a teacher being a consultant, right? When you have somebody who really wants to be a healer or a doctor being a banker.  So, you people misplaced. 

I call it ‘Career Music Chairs’ where people are bouncing around musical chairs and nobody is in the seat where they can create the most value in.  So, that’s why I think underemployment is the biggest issue that we face as an economy, but it gets overlooked because it’s like ‘You know what? People have jobs, so they’re good.”  But when you look at the emptiness that they are facing and knowing that they’re not happy at work.  When they – going back to when they’re not happy, therefore the customer isn’t getting the best service, therefore the company and the investors aren’t getting the greatest return on their invest and it just starts this loop.  So, we have to get people aligned with their purpose and professions, so going back to the quote, ‘A man who knows his why can bare almost any how.”  When you have somebody who is in a professional path where they are clear on their purpose and that they can be themselves in that space, that’s when they’re going to create the highest amount of value.