According Carl O'Brien, writing in last Friday's Irish Times, Irish workers are most ‘overqualified’ in Europe. This is based on "research carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) between 2000 and 2011". About 60% of our school leavers progress onto third level education, and this is projected to rise to about 70% over the next decade - one of the highest rates in Europe. Of course not all of these students will leave college/university with a qualification, but most will.
So - can you be overqualified? Is it OK to have "bar tenders who have university degrees"?
My view is that there is no such thing as being overqualified. There - I said it!
Of course, I work in the third level sector so I guess I would say this.
|My first business card.|
Let me tell a quick personal story. When I was getting my first ever business card, I was asked for details such as job title, phone number, etc. This was about 1994. I still had my graduation in 1988 fresh in my mind and I wondered if I would be allowed to add either "Dr" before my name, or "MA, PhD." after my name. My manager at the time said an emphatic "No". He did not want to intimidate anyone with fancy letters (I was one of only two PhDs in the organization at the time). So I accepted the decision despite being bitterly disappointed - I was very proud of my degree (as all graduates should be). Today of course, I do have the "fancy" letters on my business card - but I do work in a College where things like this are accepted and expected.
Attending College and getting a degree means many things. For those studying subjects such as Medicine, Pharmacy, or Law - it is a career decision made before going to College. A degree is obviously needed for these types of careers. If I ever end up in an operating theatre facing a surgeon's knife - I am not going to ask for someone else to do the job if my surgeon is over-qualified to wield a scalpel. For most other third level students, the three or four years in College may be something else completely. I studied Marine Biology - but never worked as a Marine Biologist. Students learn so much more in College than just what's on the syllabus. I'm sure if we asked all graduates if they regretted attending College - very few would say that they did.
So - the next time a bartender with a degree serves me a pint I will be thinking "Good for you!". Your degree did not make you a better bar tender or a better person than another bartender who does not have a degree. You will both have had different life experiences - neither is better than the other. Be proud of your achievement in gaining a degree, you might never get a chance like it again. You are not over-qualified.