Sometimes a strange twist is a sign of things to come.

Overqualified guy laid off

This a guest post by Kate Baggott. If you’d also like to guest post here on JobMob, follow these guest post guidelines.

We all know at least one of them: the friend or relative who is overqualified and under-stimulated at their place of work.

Sure, what they do pays the bills and they might even be good at it. At the same time, they know they could do better if they just had the right opportunity, knew the right person, or had the undying optimism that makes people try and try again after a disappointment.

They are often great people to work with, but their sarcasm or sense of ironic detachment bleeds into the atmosphere and that means, no matter how intelligent or talented they are, they are more than vulnerable when the time for job cuts comes.

And, how do you comfort someone who has lost a job that was beneath them to start with?

I've been trying and, I just realized, it's an impossible task.

Talking up unemployment as “an opportunity for self-discovery” does sound condescending under these circumstances, even when it is meant most genuinely. Encouraging someone to “find out what they were really meant to do” might have been the right advice when a job loss came two or three years ago, but now? It sounds like you've got your head in the sand.

These days, losing a job — even a bad one — is a tragedy. This economy sucks. It has been hitting the people who earn the least the hardest all over the world. So, what is an optimist to do to comfort the recently unemployed?

I am trying to shut up and learn how to listen, no matter how dark, depressing and hopeless the person I am listening to might sound. I am trying to get practical instead of encouraging. There is always an empty seat at my table and an extra potato in the pot to make a family meal stretch for one more. I am trying to be more sensitive to who might need an invitation in times like these.

I am working to create all the goodwill I can because, who knows, tomorrow I might need some of it myself.

About the Author

Kate Baggott is a Canadian writer. Her website is at

This article is part of the 3rd Annual JobMob Guest Blogging Contest. If you want Kate Baggott to win, share this article with your friends.

Subscribe to JobMob via RSS or email and follow me on Twitter for more thoughts on dealing with overqualified job searches.

Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Pingback: GL Hoffman

  2. Fantastic post. I am not sure how helpful this is, but I have found that there are many smart people who don’t really fit into the corporate culture. I am one of those people. I can do my job exceptionally but if I get board then the workplace becomes increasingly frustrating and I know that it shows.

    This dovetails into another comment – “you lay off people you don’t like”, which on the surface is mad but in reality it makes a lot of sense. I think that for many smart people, being layed-off because people don’t like them is more palatable than questioning their competency.

  3. Sam Diener


    I really like this article. I recently lost a job that people told me I was overqualified for. You are right though, I didn’t really want to hear that, I just wanted to kind of vent and let it all out. Good luck with your site.

  4. Kate

    That is a really interesting comment. Where do you encourage smart people who don’t fit into corporate structures to look for jobs? Is self-employment the only way to go?

  5. Jacob Share

    Will- I agree with you, for a number of reasons.

    Corporate culture is a framework where you (might) have to deal with politics, collective punishment, excessive internal competition, etc., and for some people all that negativity just overwhelms the reason why they’re there in the first place. That said, not every corporation has all those burdens and there are people who flourish in such hierarchies.

    For example, I really enjoyed working at Amazon 9 years ago which at the time was a large corporation with a startup-like mentality. At my last company in 2002-2006 though, the corporate structure was stifling and it was a much smaller company.

    Kate- just like a corporate structure doesn’t work for everyone, neither does self-employment although it definitely is an option.

    The first thing I’d recommend is to figure out in what kind of structure you would flourish. It could be as a freelancer, an employee in a mom-and-pop type of operation such as a boutique consulting shop (10-ish people), and so on.

    Then, only target companies that have the structure where you are most likely to succeed. Use that as a reason if a job interviewer asks ‘why do you want to work for us?’

  6. Kate –

    I think the challenge is that many smart people think that they are ‘over qualified’ for their jobs BUT intelligence doesn’t mean results. A common trap I see is people think they are too smart for their jobs so they ‘slow down’ instead of proving themselves through results. For me, I have ADD so the pace of corporate culture really made it a bad fit for me personally (professionally I was good, but to a certain extent ‘didn’t care’).

    That said, I flourished doing management consulting as there was always change and always something new to learn (sector, tech, team, company) so it kept me too busy to get board. The only problem with that is when I left consulting to start a family I went into a successful startup thinking that people would be like the people I worked with in consulting (smart, drive, hard-workers) but that really wasn’t the case. And this drove me crazy.

    I really don’t know how to be more specific about what jobs/environments are best for smart people –
    but ones that challenge their intellect seem to be a lot better than those that don’t…

  7. The job coach

    Compassion for anyone laid off requires listening and more listening. If the individual in question also asks for advice (and not until) that is a different proposition entirely.

    There is only so much complaining and commiserating can accomplish. Once the initial shock is past, it is time to overcome the issue and get back to positive focus on a job search; overqualified or not.

    Here’s some field tested advice about the Overqualified Label:

    One of my favorite Executives has a mantra for his direct reports, “Don’t complain, give me solutions.” Is it time to say that to your friend?

    Rita Ashley, Job Search Coach
    Author: Job Search Debugged
    Author: Networking Debugged
    Author: LinkedIn for Job Search

  8. Kate

    Wow Rita! It’s amazing that you mangaged to drop all your book titles into one comment. I am so glad my post gave you the opportunity to get your brand out there.

  9. Kate

    The person I wrote this about has had it happen again about three times since I wrote this piece.

  10. Kate

    I’d really like to know what happened to the commentors from when I wrote this piece.

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