Yesterday I took a trip down memory lane related to one my favorite topics; “shit jobs”. I don’t mean that as an insult, only to realistically portray the bottom of the totem pole. Frankly some of my best workplace experiences came from “shit jobs”. Why? Because “shit jobs” have a significant overlap with “jobs that need to be done”. (Not all of them, just some of them.)
In contrast, non-shit jobs, regardless of the cachet, have a tendency toward irrelevancy. There is nobility in doing that which needs to be done that many high end jobs lack. At any rate I tossed out this little bit of truth, which bears repeating:
“There’s no such thing as overqualified, only ‘I can find a job I prefer more’.”
I stand by that.
Compare my attitude to a snippet from USA Today:
“Dear Class of 2014: We regret to inform you that the nation’s job market continues to force college graduates to take jobs they’re overqualified for, jobs outside their major, and generally delay their career to the detriment of at least a decade’s worth of unearned wages.”
Hell No! This is steaming bullshit served on a platter of indignant stupidity. The sort of thing you can only say if you’ve been mainlining the Kool aid.
First of all the word “overqualified” should be stricken from the dictionary. Overqualified implies a person with one set of skills is inherently too awesome to do a job which relies on a different (subjectively lesser) set of skills. If you’ve got your head in the clouds it makes sense. If you’ve lived in the real world you know it’s utterly untrue.
“Overqualified” is an idea which should be killed with fire. It’s a failure of reasoning that crawled from the gaping maws of pinheads who should know better. Nitwits that tend to confuse “someone who can make more money doing something else” with “radioactive”. They also confuse “we treat employees like scum and they crawl on their hands and knees to escape us” with “all those employees that ran screaming from our little hellhole were overqualified”. Screw that! If there’s a brain surgeon out there who’d be happier running a forklift and can do it well shut your piehole and let the man get busy loading flatbeds. On the flipside, if Harvard McYale can’t learn how to mop, kick his ass out. That’s the true measure of an employee, how well can they do the job. “Overqualified” stinks of deliberately seeking people without options so they’ll stay put in a workplace that sucks.
Doubt me? Ever meet someone who happily stays at a job that they like, even though they could make more cash elsewhere? That’s the flip side of “overqualified”; not interested in the rat race. It’s often a sign of an excellent jobsite. If you find a bunch of people like that, pay close attention to their employer. There’s more than money you know.
Of course, money is the self limiting factor to all this. In the long run, folks who are unstoppable tend to… wait for it… persevere. Thus the highly motivated, in the very act of going after their goals with hammer and tongs, tend to wind up being excellent competitors. They’re likely to get some or all of what they merit. At that point they might find that their particular personal apex isn’t all they imagined it to be. Alas it’s just as hard to step down as it was to climb up.
It takes balls of steel to let go of that sweet sweet salary and revert to a shit job. Many talk about it. Few do it. So goes the balance of the universe. In the end, most of us find ourselves chained to whatever maximum earnings we can make. We tend to think that’s exactly what we need. That’s human nature. Some of us fight it. Some win. Some lose. Some bust their ass and stroke out at 50. A few are exceptionally wise and lay off the throttle in mid career. A few powerhouses happily find part time low end work pleases them in their “retired” golden years. None of this fits in the obscene little fiction that is “overqualified”.
Hat tip to Maggies Farm and Had Enough Therapy.
Alas it’s just as hard to step down as it was to climb up.
Oh, amen and preach it, brother.
But when you make the mental leap, and FINALLY arrange your affairs so you can get off the exercise wheel – because there are promises to keep, of course, that got you running on it in the first place – and then DO IT… Oh, man. There are rewards.
But first there’s this enormous mental leap.
I understand what you mean and I don’t disagree with your underlying point: there is no such thing as a job that is “beneath” me.
But I disagree that the term “overqualified” is never put to good use. I can think of two basic premises under which the term fits: If I just spent 5 years at university earning a degree…even an ostensibly useful one like engineering…and I’m working at starbucks mixing half-soy, half-caf, double macchiatos (is that even a thing?) then I’m overqualified for my job…not to mention that I probably can’t pay my student loan payments and am most likely still living in my parents basement.
Granted, the job is a job and, when approached properly, is a stepping stone to greater things, but that doesn’t relieve me of the fact that I’m working in a field that I didn’t need to blow $60k in education costs to learn how to do. BTW: engineering is a discipline that I just read yesterday is overpopulated both with new graduates and immigrants. That used to be considered a desirable field because of the job prospects and earning potential. Now that everyone and their cousin named “bubba” is going to college…not so much.
The other premise is from the standpoint of the employer. If I’m hiring, and the job requirements are a bachelor’s degree and 2 years of experience, I’m going to be reluctant to hire someone with a doctorate and 7 years of experience at a much higher paid position (from which they were recently laid off). If I do so, I know they’re not going to consider their job search to be complete and will only be working for me until they find something better…at which point I’ll be going back through this laborious hiring process again in stead of serving my customers which is what I love to do.
I’ve been on both sides of that equation, both as “that” employee and as the employer that would be taking a risk. The bottom line is that, with the job market the way it is, I can be VERY particular about who I hire and I’m not very likely to take a chance on someone who’s overqualified because the odds are they won’t be around for long.
If I had a dime for every time I’ve been told I was ‘overqualified’ for the job I’d own some tropical island some where.
The guy who was my roommate as college freshmen ended up working as a house-painter — by choice. What really floated his boat was writing poetry and composing the perfect prose sentence, and no-one would pay him very much for that, whereas house-painting, although it has moments requiring attention, has many more moments of prep and painting where your mind can run free.
“Overqualified” is how HR people tell someone they aren’t hiring him, without hurting his feelings. That’s about all the term it good for. Going to university to learn a job is almost always a mistake. I was an engineer never having taken a course in engineering. The trick is to apply at little companies without HR departments, start at the bottom and work up.