“You are overqualified.” Most of us have heard that phrase and have certainly used that phrase. It is time to rethink its validity in light of today’s career choices.
Underemployment is a term frequently used and it is defined as an individual employed in a job for which the individual is overqualified or employed in a job that does not pay as much as one wants or expects.
The important word in the definition is “expects.” Are there jobs available to be obtained like one had in the past? What if an individual chooses to “dial down?” What is the market reality for that job and that individual? Are expectations misplaced and unrealistic on both sides?
A real example is an individual who has the Manager in their title. They realize that the pyramid is too narrow at the top and they are perfectly willing to work at a level or two below. They may also realize that they were not very successful as a Manager. Their compensation expectations are realistic i.e., not what they were paid in the past.
Boomers will want to work and be productive but not work as frenetically. Young families may wish to have one partner work more flexibly to respond to child care needs. An individual may wish to dial down while pursuing another passion or education. Organizations need individual contributors who are experienced, realistic about compensation and who can work effectively on teams.
When “underemployment” is a proper career choice, it can play a role in our productivity and unemployment problems.