Career

What To Do When You’ve Outgrown Your Job

Over our lifetime we acquire a whole bunch of skills. For some, we spend 13 years in school, another four at uni and then, at last, have the chance to make our way into the workforce. Ideally, we’d get a job that showcases all of the skills we’ve learnt over those years.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way. Whether it’s due to taking a job that’s below your level of expertise, or staying in a position too long, feeling overqualified sucks.

A study by Florida Atlantic University says overqualified employees experience psychological strain, which can lead to a bunch of nasty health problems.

If you’re feeling like a big fish in an increasingly small pond, here’s what you need to ask yourself, and what to consider when taking your next step.

Are you feeling underutilised?

This one’s especially common among newcomers to the workforce. You’ve just landed your first grad job straight out of uni, overflowing with enthusiasm and ready to put your skills to practice in your new industry.

Chances are your entry-level position won’t see you dealing with the big dogs, snapping necks and cashing cheques, earning and burning – so just calm down.

While your daily tasks may feel rather menial (or just plain boring), know that it’s all part of the hustle. The reason why you aren’t taking on the big clients or attending executive meetings is because while you may have finished your tertiary education, you’re not finished learning just yet.

Michael Harari, Ph.D., one of the leaders in FAU’s study says, “There’s a discrepancy between expectation and reality.”

“Because of this, you’re angry, you’re frustrated and as a result you don’t much care for the job that you have and feel unsatisfied.”

Find the purpose and meaning in these daily tasks and learn as much as possible if you want to quickly move up that professional ladder. If after all this you still aren’t satisfied, have a chat with your boss and figure out a plan of attack. They may just have some more responsibilities for you to take on.

If you aren’t a newbie in the workforce and are feeling underutilised, the best remedy is talking to your manager. Chances are there will be something extra for you to do, or new roles you can assume.

Is there room to grow?

If you’ve been in your position for a while and find yourself checking the time every five minutes, you might need something else to occupy your time. Ask yourself: is there any room to grow in my current position? If you can’t answer that question, find someone who can.

If you feel overqualified, chances are you’re already doing a more than adequate job. If your boss sees this, they may put you up for a promotion. Whether it’s a step up within your current workplace, or a transfer to somewhere more suited to your qualifications – if you had their back, they’ve got yours too.

If in fact there is a new role for you to take on, or more exciting tasks – rejoice! Just never forget to know your worth – with more responsibility generally comes more cash-money, so be sure you aren’t being screwed over.

If you’ve come to the realisation that there isn’t any room for growth, you’re going to have to ask yourself the always-fun question: what the hell am I doing? Don’t let it scare you, but if you’re not happy with your position, and the lack of wiggle-room, you might have to look at alternate options.

This doesn’t have to be a traumatic event – people change careers all the time, so think of it as an opportunity.

What are your options? And, have you spoken to your boss yet?

If the chat with your boss went swimmingly, you’ve more than likely got a new job role lined up, or are getting some more interesting job offers thrown your way.

Alternatively, if you don’t know where to go from here, you should know that you have options.

If giving your current job the flick to chase after a more fulfilling job sounds like a great idea for you, go for it – but not until you have weighed up the pros and cons.

Ah, lists – they will literally save a life one day, I’m sure of it. The ol’ pros and cons list is a sure-fire way to sort your life out. If one side unquestionably outweighs the other, consider the decision made.

When leaving your job is more of a fleeting thought than a serious consideration, it’s probably not something you need to concern your boss with. But if the contemplation has transformed into “I must get the out of here or I will key all of your cars”, it’s time to plan your exit.

Just know it’s always much easier to find a job when you have a job. So, until you have one lined up, tough it out for a little while longer. At the same time, if you know you’re going to leave, read up on your employment contract or have the conversation. You don’t want to do the dirty on them – especially if you ever want a good reference.

Coming to the realisation of feeling overqualified for your job can sure suck, but can also be looked at as a blessing in disguise. Just don’t be quick to jump ship – a conversation with your boss is always best.


Bradley is a writer from Newcastle who enjoys travel, Tina Fey and is a connoisseur of cheap red wine.