Are you really overqualified for that job?

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Humor_OverqualifiedWhat does it mean to be overqualified for a job?

Seriously, I hear a lot of college graduates (and their parents) say things like:

I didn’t get a college degree to do that!

I didn’t send my daughter to college so she could do that!

With as much money as it cost to go to college, my job should pay more!

You don’t need a college degree to do that!

. . .  and other similar comments.

There appears to be some overriding belief that a college degree – any college degree – should immediately qualify you for a certain type and level of employment and a certain minimum level of compensation simply because you have earned the degree and you have spent a certain amount of money getting it.

I hope I am not the first person to tell you this, but . . .

 A college degree does not guarantee or entitle you to anything

It may offer you some great advantages over someone without a college degree. It may offer you greater long term opportunities. It may help you gain access to jobs or companies you might otherwise not be able to access.  But, a college degree does not come with a guarantee of employment or a guaranteed level of compensation.

What you choose to study (your major)  will play a big role in how easy or hard it will be for you to find a job when you graduate.  There is a much greater need for Engineering graduates than there is a need for Philosophy graduates.  I’m not knocking Philosophy! I’m just saying that Philosophy does not track into specific high-demand career tracks in the same way Engineering does.  What you study does matter when it comes to looking for a job. What you study will determine whether or not you are “overqualified” for a job or not.

What you do outside the classroom (internships, part-time jobs, student activities, etc.) will play a big role in determining how competitive you are as a job candidate.  Just taking classes and collecting college credits doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to explore your career options and gain experience to complement your degree while you are in school

How you connect the dots between what you do inside the classroom and outside the classroom will make all the difference.  You have to connect the dots.  You college can’t do this for you.  They can help, but they cannot do it for you, no matter how much you might be willing or able to pay.

A college degree itself does not make you overqualified

Some college degrees make you qualified to do specific things. Degrees in Civil Engineering, Accounting and Secondary Education qualify you, respectively, to be an entry-level civil engineer, accountant or high school teacher.

The same cannot be said for degrees like Rhetoric, Sociology and any number of other Liberal Arts and Social Sciences degrees. They offer great opportunities to learn and grown intellectually and personally, but they do not prepare you to enter a specific profession in the same way professional degrees do.

Know this going in!  Don’t be surprised by it when you graduate!  The whole “what am I going to do when I graduate?’ thing is not going to take care of itself.

A college degree will not necessarily make your career path clear or easy

Some college degrees track directly into clearly definable career paths, most do not.  Sometimes these career paths offer stability and good compensation.  Sometimes they do not.

There is a reason the term “starving artist” exists and the term “starving software developer” doesn’t!

Your expectations must be in line with reality

A lot of students go to school and major in television, film, acting, theater and music.  Most do not become television stars, directors, producers  or professional musicians. Why?  The barriers to entry into these professions are really high.


The competition is intense.  There are many more people who want to work in these fields than there are (or ever will be) opportunities available.

Don’t believe me? Look at the how many people show up for auditions for reality TV shows, American Idol, The Voice and other programs looking to find the next big star.

If you think you want to try to make it in entertainment, be honest with yourself: Are you really ready to make the necessary sacrifices? Do you really like Ramen noodles – three meals a day, every day?

Parents, you have to be realistic, too

Run the numbers. What lifestyle have you created for your kids?  When they are on their own, how much is your son or daughter going to need to earn just to maintain the lifestyle you currently provide for them? Are you setting them up for a rude awakening after graduation?  Are you setting yourself up for a rude awakening?

If you are sending your daughter to a private liberal arts university and paying for her to live a year lifestyle that costs $40-50,000 a year to maintain, don’t be surprised when she is shocked she cannot live on the $25-30,000/year entry-level salary her first job offers.

It’s not the university’s fault!  Your daughter is not overqualified for those jobs!  It’s the reality of the marketplace.

So, are you really overqualified for that job?  Take my Four Question Test

If the qualifications you offer exceed those outlined in the job description – YES!
If you think you should get a better job just because you have a college degree – NO!

Getting ready for a job interview? Answer the following questions, and you will know whether or not you are qualified, overqualified or just not a good fit for the job:

1. Why do you want the job? (What appeals to you most about the work itself?)

2. Why should they hire you? (How do your qualification match the qualifications they are seeking in candidates?)

3. Why do you want to work in this field? (What interests you about working in this area?)

4. Why do you want to work for this employer? (Why do you think this would be a good place to work?)

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