On Overqualification and Underemployment

Sometimes, I wish that I was average.

Now happens to be one of those times. I really wish that I were average. Then maybe I wouldn’t be bored out of my mind right now. I am currently sitting at my desk at my summer job as a computer aide at the local public library. I know this sounds boring (mostly because it is), but I really love libraries and I think that public libraries have helped so many people since their creation in the 18th century. I thought that I would be able to interact with books and come to understand the inner workings of one of my favorite public institutions. Unfortunately, I am having a completely different experience and this is only my second full day of work.

The program through which I have been placed at the library is for high school students who are looking to get some job experience in the real world before pursuing post-secondary educations and before entering the job market as adults. Nearly every student in the program attends or attended a local public school. If we were in Fairfax County, Virginia, I would think that the other students are just as driven and motivated as I am. Instead, we’re in Norfolk, Virginia where the public school district is ranked #94 out of 100 county/city school districts. Although this doesn’t mean that any of the students who’ve attended these schools are any less smart or any worse than other students, they are treated by the adults and administrators of the program as if they are. This means that even if these students graduated as the valedictorian of their school or if their on a nationally ranked debate team, the adults in this program treat them as if they don’t know how to do anything.

I can’t stand this any more.

Before my own experience in a work place like the library that I’m in, I never realized that underemployment and overqualification actually had an effect on people. I’m coming to understand that overqualification can significantly reduce quality of life. In a 2013 USA Today article, journalist Mary Beth Marklein explains that over half of all Americans with a college degree were overqualified for their job. Marklein draws now conclusions in her article so I’ll come up with one of my own: overqualification and underemployment leads to unhappiness and frustration. Although overqualified workers may do the job better than someone who’s considered a “perfect fit,” people should not be forced to sacrifice their intelligence, their skills for a job.

Although I’ve been underemployed for the summer, I’m certainly underqualified to write this post: I only just graduated high school and this is only my second paying job. I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to have received a JD and be forced to work at Starbucks.

After this whole (underqualified) tirade, I’ll finally give you my conclusions on being overqualified and underemployed. New members of the workforce don’t need to find their perfect job and they shouldn’t expect to. At the same time, new members of the workforce should be recognized for their potential and should be mentored by their superiors so that the next generation of workers is prepared to find the job that is their perfect fit.

The next generation of workers should be better prepared to ask for a job for which they are perfectly qualified.