Academic employers will undoubtedly perceive your advanced degree as a requirement, not as a liability. Like academic employers, some nonacademic employers may require you to have an advanced degree, but other nonacademic employers might perceive your advanced degree as evidence that you are overqualified for a job, particularly entry-level positions. Overqualification might be the most challenging thing that youwill have to address in your nonacademic job search after graduation. You will probably have to address the issue of being overqualified for a job not only with potential employers but also with yourself because you might have developed unrealistic expectations about the type of work that you will be able to find with your degree. In the following sections, you can learn how you can address the issue of overqualification with yourself and with potential nonacademic employers.
Addressing Overqualification with Yourself
Before you can convince potential employers that you are not overqualified for a job, you must first convince yourself. After putting so much time and effort into getting your graduate degree, you probably have certain expectations about what type of work and pay you want in your first postacademic job. You might even expect to skip all the rungs and climb straight to the top of the corporate ladder to be in a higher position than are your coworkers without advanced degrees. These expectations are unrealistic; the nonacademic world is similar to the academic world in that you have to work your way up from the bottom. Therefore, you should be more realistic and accept the fact that your advanced degree does not give you special qualifications for most nonacademic positions and that you to will probably start at an entry-level position with an entry-level wage. Do not, however, let this discourage you. Having an entry-level position is still better than having no job, and you can use the skills associated with your degree to move up the nonacademic ranks far more quickly than you could in the academic ranks.
In addition, you may prefer your hourly, entry-level wage to the monthly stipend you might have received at an academic job because unlike the monthly stipend at an academic job, even an entry-level wage is more comparable to the quantity and type of work you will do in a nonacademic position.
Addressing Overqualification with Employers
After you have addressed your own personal issues with your overqualification, you will be better able to address potential employers’ issues with your overqualification. As previously stated, some nonacademic employers may require employees in some positions to have advanced degrees, in which case you would not be overqualified for a job if you have the appropriate degree. However, most nonacademic employers do not require advanced degrees for most positions. Nonacademic employers who do not require advanced degrees generally express the following overqualification concerns about potential employees who have advanced degrees: (a) employees will not be challenged by entry-level work, (b) employees will have high salary expectations, and (c) employees will leave as soon as something better comes along. If a potential employer broaches the issue of you being overqualified for a job, the first thing you should do is not seem desperate, arrogant, or defensive. Instead, you should calmly, rationally, and professionally address the potential employer’s concerns about your overqualification by emphasizing that you are an honest worker who happens to have an unexpected skill set that could only benefit the company. In addition, you should emphasize the experiences and skills that you hope to learn and gain from working with the company. You should also communicate that you have reasonable expectations for the type of work that you will do and for the compensation when you negotiate a salary.