Are you reading this at work right now? Did you hop online because the stuff on your desk is mindless busy work and what’s waiting in your to-do folder are boring tasks you could do in your sleep? In other words, are you overqualified for your job?
If you think you are, you have plenty of company: Recruiting software company Jobvite finds that 36% of respondents in a recent survey of more than 700 workers think they’re overqualified for their current jobs, and about two-thirds of those are looking for a new job they think better befits their skills.
Are all these people really overqualified? Some undoubtedly are; the sluggish labor market has forced a lot of people looking for work to take lower-level positions just so they’ll have a job. Jobvite says young adults (who have been dogged by persistently higher unemployment) as well as higher-earning and better-educated people are more likely to think they’re overqualified.
And yet, there’s something disingenuous about the notion that more than a third of the American workforce is frittering away its talents. “The idea that you’re an expert in something just because you’ve tried it may contribute to people’s mistaken belief that they’re overqualified for certain jobs even when they aren’t,” says Vinda Rao, senior marketing manager for recruiting software company Bullhorn.
Career experts say the following signs are indicators that you actually are overqualified, as opposed to just having an inflated sense of your skills.
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You look for more work to do. If you regularly finish your work and go ask your boss what else you can do, or find something that needs doing but is not technically in your job description and do it anyway, you might be overqualified, says Dan Finnigan, Jobvite’s president and CEO. “If there’s some sign that your boss doesn’t care or need for you to do more, no ideas for you on what more you can do… this means you’ve already done above and beyond what the job requires,” he says.
You’re always bored. “Common signs of being overqualified are being bored, feeling you’re not being stretched, challenged or engaged in your work, but they could also be signs that you’re in the wrong job,” says career coach Jo Casey. Try to figure out why you’re bored. “If you can do 100% of the work with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back, you’re probably overqualified,” Casey says. On the other hand, if you just don’t like doing the work or find it dull, the job might be a bad fit, but you’re probably not overqualified.
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You know more than your boss. “If you’re being managed by people who know less than you do about your department’s function and responsibilities, you’re overqualified,” Rao says. “If you’re generating results above and beyond what’s expected for someone in your job description to the point that people turn to you instead of your boss for counsel, expertise, and guidance, you’re probably overqualified.”
Your performance consistently beats your peers’. “In a job where it’s easy to measure how well you’re doing and you’re outperforming everyone else in your peer group on the same objective measures — you’re routinely driving most sales, producing most leads in marketing, resolving most issues in customer service team — you could be genuinely overqualified,” Finnigan says.
You’re not learning anything new. “You should be hired for a role because you have the potential to do well in it, not because you already know everything you could know about it,” Rao says. “If you require zero training or guidance to do your job extremely well from the get-go, you’re overqualified for it.” Also, if you have much more experience than the job description requires, you could be overqualified, but Rao cautions not to think that education is the same or better than experience. “Just because you have an MBA and your boss doesn’t by no means indicates that you could do his or her job better than they can,” she says.