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Feeling overqualified for jobs

Feeling overqualified for jobs

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DEAR READERS: Many young people I know are finding themselves faced with a conundrum. They have college degrees and are eager to find work after the tough pandemic year. However, some of the jobs they're interested in don't require a four-year degree — and they feel they're being excluded from consideration because they are, in a sense, "overqualified." How can they overcome the perception from a prospective employer that they aren't right for the job?

While digging into this topic, I discovered some rather surprising data: According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as reported in a February 2020 story from Inside Higher Ed, 41% of recent college graduates and 33.8% of all college graduates are underemployed in that they are working in jobs that don't require a college degree.

Vicki Salemi, Monster career expert, offers her take on what's causing the conundrum.

"There are several opposing things happening here simultaneously," says Salemi, who offers data based on a 2020 Grad Survey by Monster to explain the situation.

"First, the majority of recent grads — 68% — think that their degree makes them overqualified for entry-level jobs. This puts them in the position of applying for the jobs that they may not have the appropriate experience, training or skills for — setting themselves up for disappointment," she explains. "And second, the majority of recent grads — 63% — admitted that they would apply for jobs that they know they are overqualified for but only if they are desperate."

What that points to is entry-level job seekers aren't positioning themselves well in a competitive market.

"Either they're overselling themselves or coming across as desperate," Salemi says.

Her advice?

"The most valuable asset in today's market is your skill set," stresses Salemi. And that, she says, means young grads on the job hunt should make sure they align their skills to the prospective employer's needs while focusing on skills they want to develop or hone.

"We know that recruiters struggle to find candidates with the right skills — two-thirds of them think candidates need to do a better job of articulating how their skills make them the right candidate," Salemi adds. "So, if an applicant can make that process easier, they'll have a foot in the door."

Reading job descriptions thoroughly, taking care to identify keywords and preferred skills, is the first step, Salemi explains.

"Then use your past experience — not just jobs — that match those skills," she says. "For instance, if you were on a sports team, highlight your strengths as a team member and your dependability. if you were in theater or band, you were also a team player and demonstrate creativity."

No matter what, honesty is always the best policy.

That means being upfront about everything during your job search — including the fact that you want to learn new skills to develop your career.

"You may be an English major, but perhaps you're interested in the food industry. Working in hospitality will help you explore new opportunities that will combine your passion for being a foodie while developing strong communication skills," Salemi says.

"Recruiters think that candidates stretch the truth, so it's important to not overstate your abilities. Be truthful and transparent with them about your skills and aspirations and your desire to learn — this will help you stand out from other candidates who are not being so honest."


Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at

Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor. You can email her your career questions at

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