The Graduate job struggle: Under-experienced and Overqualified

the graduate struggle overqualified and underexperienced how to stay positive

Under-experienced and overqualified. The graduate equivalent of a rock and a hard place. That nice degree you’ve spent three, four, or five years of your life slogging away to get, vs the lack of full-time experience you wield because education has been such a large part of your life. 

It’s probably the most demoralising part of hunting for a full time job as a fresh graduate. 

Feedback on job applications isn’t often given – number of applicants in this testing, testing time, the busy lives of HR people, and the fact that sometimes it isn’t necessary – but it’s something that I ask for if I’m told that I’m unsuccessful in securing that position I’ve been after. As in, they have notified me in some way or another, not the month of silence after an application.  I never expect a response, but sometimes I do like to know what it is that I can tweak, or alter, or learn something that I was lacking for the next time. Most of the time, it falls on deaf ears (or, more likely, in the inbox of extremely busy people), but on the odd occasion I do actually get something back. 

Which is fab, any feedback is good feedback, right? 

Well. Yes and no. 

the graduate struggle overqualified and underexperienced how to stay positive

Yes, when they give me areas that I need to improve, or strengthen slightly, or suggest areas to read up on. No when it’s ‘we loved you, you were a great candidate, unfortunately you’re overqualified/lacking the relevant experience for this position’. 

I understand the underexperienced part. Not a lot of people want to hire fresh-faced (no matter how bright eyed and bushy tailed) graduates into a senior position. Most of the times for those positions I apply because they sound interesting and I learn things very quickly, but I know that really they’re looking for someone they don’t have to train. 

It’s the ‘overqualified’ I have a problem with. 

Most of the positions I’ve applied for are considered ‘entry level’: ‘assistant’, ‘junior’ type positions because I feel that I don’t really know what I’m doing in that field and they can train me up, a blank canvas, into what they want. They ask for a degree, which I have (yay), and I generally feel that I’m a good fit for the advertised place, which is why I apply. 

To then be told that I’m overqualified for those positions leaves me a little bit flummoxed, to say the least. I’ve been told by some outfits that I should be aiming at more managerial, but for those kind of jobs I need way more experience than I currently have: at least 2-4 years in a similar position or team-leading endeavour. 

Rock, hard place, it’s never nice to see you, but here we are. 

I’ve been given various suggestions as to why ‘overqualified’ gets trotted out as a ‘soz we can’t hire you’, I think my favourite is that companies may have to pay you more than they were aiming to, but even then it feels a little hollow to have that as an overarching reason. It’s eating away little by little at that self confidence I’ve been building to get me to this point. 

It’s frustrating to think that 4 years of a degree that you work hard to achieve could land you in ‘overqualified’, or that companies don’t want to take the chance to give you employment. 

The struggle, ey. I wasn’t expecting to get a job straight out of uni, not by a long shot. The current economic climate isn’t exactly one for taking risks in, I also have alternatives and plan B’s to explore, but I thought I’d just share where I’m at at the moment in the Undergrad to (un)Employed status. And just reassure people in the same position that you’re not alone. 

I guess it’s a numbers game, something’ll turn up. I just have to find it. 

Have you ever been in this sort of situation before? How did you manage to stay optimistic (or positive) and keep moving forwards? Plz leave any help you have!

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12 responses to “The Graduate job struggle: Under-experienced and Overqualified”

  1. Tara says:

    I'm going to graduate this year and am already dreading this situation! It's so difficult to keep putting yourself out there when you keep getting knocked back as well, hopefully something fab will work its way to you soon!

  2. Nicola D says:

    Yep, it sucked – and I was dumb and got a Master's degree on top so I was even less employable! Eventually I just volunteered, and managed to get a role through that. Once I had that, I actually found it was really easy to get my first few jobs. And now I work in an industry entirely different from what my degree was actually in, so it sort of seems like once you've managed your first role, it doesn't even matter anymore!Nicola //

  3. Lizzie ♥ says:

    Eurgh it's the exact same thing in the design industry – they ask for experience but they don't necessarily give it, and it's so frustrating! I hope you are able to find a job soon <3 the "overexperienced" excuse is so lame! Lizzie Bee //

  4. Eleanor Hirst says:

    I had exactly the same experience as you! I honestly just started freelancing for myself and gaining enough experience so I could apply for the 'experienced' jobs. Obvs this is not suitable for everyone (I live with my parents). But it was a great feeling to get some pretty great clients that the agency I applied for, couldn't get. Ultimate mic drop moment. I've done so much free work (probably about a years worth) which is what made me overqualified and it was so frustrating cos originally I was underqualified before that?! eleanor

  5. Emily Underworld says:

    I'm in my third year now, going onto a Master's hopefully, but after that I imagine I'll be in the exact same position. It's so disheartening and I'm so worried! I hope things get better for you soon Fii!- Emily from

  6. Carina Chung says:

    OMG BABE I CAN TOTALLY RELATE!!So many of my classmates were getting rejections because we are over qualified. Its so hard to find a company that understands that just because we have a qualification doenst mean we demand a higher pay. We are perfectly contented with the job we're applying to and would gladly learn and put in ourbest at the job.Plus the economy is really a bitch rn 🙁 KEEP THE FAITH AND JUST KEEP APPLYING.I hope you get a job you love and really enjoy and they can appreciate the beauty and wonderful worker/human you are <3 <3 xx♡ Carina – Blog // YouTube

  7. aimee cottle says:

    I can't totally relate. I dropped out of uni in my second year, so I never got my degree. But coming out of uni and into employment was hard. I think it took me well over a year to secure a job, after months and months of interviews that went nowhere. It's so hard, and it can really chip away at your self-esteem, and your confidence. There isn't much to say, except it will happen. You just have to keep putting yourself out there, applying for everything and something will come along. Good luck <3 x x

  8. Fiona Call says:

    My current load of replies is "we really like you but other candidates fit our requirements more" which just makes me think that so many people apply that it was going to be impossible to fit the bill unless you're superwoman or slightly less! I'm just starting final year and I'm already quite demoralised from the replies from graduate schemes right now. Good luck in your job search I know you'll find that job soon!The Traffic Jam of Life

  9. Serena Reidy Books says:

    I can definitely relate to this! I graduated in May and I have yet to find a job. I'm also quite shy so on the rare occasion when I do get an interview, I just freeze! It really does suck!

  10. Martha Edwards says:

    Not in the situation yet but this is totally something I'm worried about for when I graduate – we're in a really tricky situation as graduates at the moment. Irritating when we're forking out so much for a degree and I see college acquaintances who went straight into work buying their first house now! What a situation xMartha Jane |

  11. Laura Gale says:

    Yes! I have totally been in this position before. I studied law at university and received so many knockbacks for work placements, vacation schemes, internships, training contracts and secretarial roles. I stayed positive by reminding myself that good things come to those who wait and persevering. I stuck it out and eventually ended with 24 weeks worth of work experience on my CV, which I think helped me land my first paralegal role before I'd even graduated! I stayed there for 5 months and then was finally offered a more suitable position in a more established law firm! Good luck with the job hunt!xxLaura | Laura's Beauty BingeInstagram | Twitter

  12. Martina says:

    Online employment postings are not seen the way print characterized advertisements are in uk

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