Overqualified and underemployed – a curse or a blessing?

Today, pursuing long studies is no longer a guarantee to land a good job, it seems as though it has become the prerequisite to get a job at all. Many young people who have received their degrees over the last few years, often find themselves in a delicate situation.

National Blog Posting Month, NanoPoblano, NaBloPoMo, 2015They come out of university thinking that all doors are open for them, only to quickly be confronted with a bleak reality. I see many people who have after a first Master’s degree continued with another, and then another in order to be even more qualified, or maybe to hide from the job market… Then there are those who go from unpaid or underpaid internship to the next, with no hope that they will be taken on board, especially when 25% or more of the staff are interns.

It is not rare for people to move back in with their parents. Boomerang kids… It is not rare either that a more or less long period of time after finishing university is spend unemployed. A post higher education depression might kick in, even if the person in question finds a job. After all this job is very often far from the ideas and expectations.  How many people work in odd jobs with salaries and activities far away from what they had imagined? Making a living through pizza delivery or babysitting probably was not on their minds…

Being rushed through school, job candidates are considered too young, too immature, and too inexperienced. Who with 22-24 has a Master’s degree and 5 years or more of professional experience that does not include internships? Sometimes within the same sentence they are told that they are both overqualified and too inexperienced.

Being rushed through school has another negative effect, what is thought to bring money and a career is studies, no one listens correctly to their heart. So once done the big question arrises: “What do I do now?” or even “In fact, what do I want to do with my professional life?” It can take moths or even years to figure out the answers.

On the other hand I have seen people land high paying jobs rather quickly, but they threw in the towel after a few months as it wasn’t the right thing for them. Sadly before studying they had never thought about if they would like the competitive corporate world. Some stay, not completely happy, but they do not ask themselves any questions.

Still not everything is bad for this generation of overqualified and underemployed. After months or years of being unhappy in their job, they shift their focus onto essential questions.

Hearts begin to beat again for the forgotten passion. In my case writing.
The discovery of a whole new professional field is made, one that wasn’t envisaged before, but one that is of their liking.

I do think that the search for our passion is important. The discovery and pursuit of it even more. After a few years of struggles, professionally and often mentally, life’s priorities start to be clearly defined.

Once the passion is rediscovered, after all with rushing through school it was suppressed, it is time to do everything to do something in relation with that passion. People who follow their passion, who invest time and money to make it possible, have their eyes light up when they talk about it. Maybe the generation of overqualified and underemployed won’t be known for its corporate careers, but maybe it will be a generation that avoids the midlife crisis, as life’s essential questions are asked far earlier on. Being young, these people still have all possibilities to live for their passion(s), even if it means earning less, but that is a small price to pay for happiness.

I have taken a habit to encourage people to think about what they REALLY want to do. To think about what their heart is beating for.

Do you know or are someone who has experienced similar situations?
Have you found your passion?
Has this problem existed for other generations?

© Solveig Werner 2015. All rights reserved.

25 thoughts on “Overqualified and underemployed – a curse or a blessing?

  1. I still wonder what I’m going to do when I grow up 😉 Yes, I think it has always been an issue. There have been boom times when it wasn’t as much of a problem, but there have been other times when every fast food worker had a PhD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do we ever grow up?
      I think sometimes it depends on the degree. I had heard stories of engineers getting no jobs because there were too many coming onto the job market. Today many people study the same subjects because they are told they can do anything with it, well not if everyone does it…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel the same way about this stuff. I have seen SO MANY people bogged down with Serious debt because of schooling that they done even, or can’t even currently use in the job they have. Many take jobs doing what ever they can just to pay the school loans. Others HAVE to stay in a profession they found they don’t really enjoy because they have to pay their student debt.
    What I have been doing with my oldest kids now is not sending them right to college. I want them to figure out what exactly they want to do and then pursue schooling tailored to their profession. So far, one has completed a bachelors in business paying her way through a community college. One has completed an apprenticeship through a tech school being reimbursed through his job for schooling costs. Another is currently paying her way through another type of program for her profession. She has already completed an apprenticeship and is working in that to pay her way through the other program.
    I do not agree with sending kids off to college as soon as they graduate. Not in these days. It costs WAY too much to find out you don’t even like what the profession and many of them get degrees in things they can’t really get a job with.
    Sorry, I have kind of a lot to say about this…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Vicki, you do seem to have it in you to write a post on the topic yourself…
      Here higher education is free so that’s an advantage but then it is expected of everyone to go to university which depreciates the value of the degrees.
      I worked in a school for a while and it was important for me to make the kids think, not have them believe all they could do was go to college (many of my students had a hard time coming to school and working etc they were not mature enough to go to college).
      A mother of one of my private students said that she knew that it would be good for her son to take a year off, do something different (travel, apprenticeship, humanitarian things…) but that she did not want him to do that. She was worried that in that case he would never go to university…


      1. He may never go to university and that is ok really.
        It is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time as you point out. Many kids are not mature enough to handle college I agree.
        I have written a little on the topic, once or twice. But I suppose I should work up a good blog post about it. This is great info to have and helps!! Thanks so much!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If he is ok with it then that is all that counts really.
          It is just my observation of things that I have been seeing happening around me over the last few years.
          You are welcome Vicki 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I am with you most of the way with your blog except when you get to the bit about “follow your passion.” It is such a cliche and lets be honest, most of us go into a job because we perceive that it will interest us, challenge us, give an opportunity to develop and not least pay us a decent salary. I have NEVER been passionate about any job that I have done but that doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed them. To me they were a means to an end i.e. I worked to live so that I could indulge myself in my other interests in life, photography, music, visiting foreign cities etc.
    I am afraid that when it comes to passion, that is something I reserve for the lover in my life, not the job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      I have seen people discovering their passion lately, and it does so much good. Their life next to work becomes fuller too.
      I guess you are lucky because so many people of my generation get desperate quickly when it comes to their job, and that even if it pays well.


  4. I’m working on finding passion in my career after being in career world for about 8 years. staring over is hard, but i just had no idea what i wanted to do in college and beyond! 18 is too old to know what you want to do “when you grow up”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Erin!
      I had an idea when I went into my studies but I forgot about it in the process (I will be doing a guest post mentioning this next week).
      Do you know now what you want to do?
      I didn’t mention this but in a way higher education is reassuring as we find ourselves on a traced track, many derail when they find themselves lost not knowing where to go next. There is no one to truly guide us after college, except our selves, if we don’t know where to go, where do we go?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We are Gen X, and my hubby is facing this same problem. You’d think a Masters in Geology would qualify you for SOME kind of decent job. After one crappy job after another, some outside his field, now he’s an adjunct teaching part time. Luckily for us, I have full time work to float the bills. Good luck with your passion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, I am sorry to hear that.
      My fiancé studied law but didn’t really aim for a job in law, now he is studying in the field of his passion aiming to insert that into his career.
      I studied politics, with a lot of research on monetary unions. I wanted to work within the European Central Bank, I cannot really picture myself there now. All of the other jobs that I was told would be accessible such as public administration or working for some ministry did not appeal to me at all.
      Now I teach German and subjects such as history and literature in German and have realised that I like to share knowledge and help others understand things better. That with writing is the perfect combination, I do hope that it will work out in the long run.
      I do hope that your husband is happy with his current job, and that you are happy with yours too!
      Thank you for commenting Beth!


      1. I have long believed that money does not equate with happiness. Good for you both that you’ve found a way to be happy–I love teaching, and hubby is pretty happy, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As a pretty recent college undergrad, your thoughts resonate with me greatly! I studied something I am truly passionate about, but which is an extremely small and difficult profession to break into (theatre). Some days I find myself wishing I had more technical skills to transfer into a more viable career, but ultimately I don’t regret my degree in the least.

    Still deciding if I love it enough to pay for a higher degree though…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Anne, thanks for your comment. I am not sure if there are many degrees that give us a lot of technical skills, especially if is not in the natural sciences field…. You will at least, like you say, not regret studying something that you were passionate about, I loved my undergraduate degree, but not so much my master’s.
      Have you looked into doing a Master’s abroad? In Europe they are often quite accessible, in the UK they are expensive but nothing compared to the US I think. And seen that you speak French, here university is free, just don’t go to some unknown place, because that won’t sell either…
      Good luck with everything!


    1. Well here (in France) everyone is almost expected to have at least a Bachelor’s degree for jobs that were accessible with a high school diploma a few years ago. Often times you will need one degree up from what it was 15-20 years ago, but then they do pay like as if you had no degree…
      I was told in an interview that I was over qualified. It is horrible.


  7. Coucou Solveig!

    Déjà bravo pour ce très chouette blog! Il faudrait que je trouve le courage de commenter en anglais mais j’ai bien trop peur de faire des fautes!!

    Comme promis, je combats ma mauvaise habitude de ne pas laisser de commentaire et je viens saluer ton super écrit!
    Je ne peux que te rejoindre dans ton raisonnement! J’en suis même l’illustration parfaite..Encore que, je ne sois pas aussi “overqualified” que souligné! Tout ça pour dire que c’est un fait, il est vraiment compliqué, aujourd’hui, de trouver un job qui correspond aux études que l’on a mené à termes…et que finalement, pour ma part, je préfèrerais, effectivement, travailler dans un métier qui me passionne plutôt que pour un travail alimentaire qui paie les factures mais qui n’a ni saveur, ni défit!

    En tout cas, continue à encourager les gens à embrasser leur passion, ça porte toujours ses fruits à plus ou moins long terme 😉

    Hi Solveig!!

    First, great job for this very cool blog! i’ll try to translate my comment in english but i’m so afraid about mistakes…but, i’ll try!

    Like i promised before, i’m fighting my bad habit not writing comments and go as thief.
    Great post by the way!!
    So..i’m really agree with your point! I’m so the “perfect” picture of it…though i’m not so “overqualified” like said! All this to say, it’s a fact, it’s very complicated, today, to find a job who match with our studies…and finally, for me indeed, i’ll prefer to work for a job who excites me rather for a “bills pay’s” , savorless and without challenge job!

    Anyway, continue to encourage people to embrace their passion, it’s making its way slowly but surely 😉

    All my apologizes for my poor english but with pleasure,

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Cher Lili, merci pour ce commentaire. Ne t’inquiètes pas pour ton anglais, personne, sauf les trolls vont critiquer les fautes! On a malheureusement tous peur du regard de l’autre, meme quand on écrit des articles, surtout au debut.
    Merci beaucoup d’avoir fait un commentaire bilingue!

    Thank you Lili for your comment, that definitely adds to the discussion that I seemed to have started with this post. I hope that you’ll join the WP community soon, even if you’ll only write in French. I’ll be there to read you. Don’t worry about making mistakes in your English comments, everyone will appreciate the effort. A comment, especially one that comes from the heart is always appreciated!


  9. Wow. I’m pretty sure that you hit the nail on the head with this one and me, being one of these recent graduates, known the struggles you have discussed all too well. However, unlike my counterparts, I face the problem of not knowing what truly calls to me. I can’t see myself doing one thing the rest of my life, no matter how much I enjoy it and I think that is having more precedent nowadays in a world where jobs aren’t nearly as plentiful as they used to be.

    With the limited number of jobs that are available many graduates are being forced to take what they can and there is the very real possibility that they might be stuck there. I feel this all too well at my current point in life. It’s disheartening to not know what to do, to feel helpless, and not truly have any idea how to get where I want, much less what I want. The lack of opportunities for job changes is crushing. So, even if they decide what they want and go for it with all their heart, I fear some of them (myself included) may feel held back due to the lack of exit strategies or back-up plans available.

    Alright, I’m rambling. Not even sure if that made sense, but I hope it does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Melanie, your comment is almost a post on it’s own 🙂
      I have the feeling that I have struck a chord with many people on this topic.
      I must confess I finished my studies and was incapable of knowing what I wanted to do, I applied for jobs as hotel receptionist (with a Master’s degree?), tried to get a job in retail, applied to things related to my research, but I guess I was lacking real motivation or passion… Then I started to work freelance as a tutor and started to like that. I worked as a high school German teacher for 3 months and really enjoyed that experience. I think that sometimes we find things that we like that did not at all occur to us.
      I felt depressed and lost, and misunderstood for a long time, many people could not relate, and what they had in mind for me did not at all correspond to my ideas.
      You are so right about the plentifulness, now people go on job hops, staying with one employer becomes rarer.

      I do wish you a lot of luck.
      take a step back, think of what you enjoyed before college, what you dreamt of being (besides princess and stuff like that) and maybe you’ll find your path.
      It did make sense to me, but maybe my reply is a bit messy…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I fear that I may end up being one of those serial job-hoppers were it not for my deep-rooted need for security. Working one job and doing the same thing for the rest of my life seems so… routine. I suppose this spurs from my curiosity. I’ve always wanted to know more and experience once and I feel as though that is quite limited when choosing a single job. Even so, stability wins out in the end. (Whether that be for good or bad, I can’t say.)

        I can definitely relate to being lost. I can’t recall the number of times over the past year where I felt like I had no idea where I was or where I was going or where I even wanted to go. It was as if my life had simply become sedentary. The worst part was that I really didn’t have much to look back on in regards to what I wanted to be before college. (I guess I never really accepted the fact that I’d grow up some day. >.>)

        All that being said, I have chosen a path. I’m not sure if it’s right or whether I like it at the end, but hopefully it will at least put me in a better place than where I am now. (even if it does involve going back and getting an advanced degree. :p Over-qualification for the win. Hee hee!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If you have chosen a path, then that is already something! You can always change directions when you hit a fork in the road. I think that many people are fighting the fear of being stuck in the same routine, not learning enough new things, and this fear does paralyse us quite a bit.
          I did read somewhere that our generation was a bit disliked by employers BECAUSE we get “bored” quickly or are quickly unsatisfied by our missions, always searching to grow intellectually.
          I do wish you a lot of luck on your path. But there is a saying that says that paths are created through walking on them…


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