Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
Asking me if I’m overqualified for my job seems like a loaded question. I think my answer is both a yes and a no. Let me explain. Am I overqualified for my job? No.
However, I probably should have been at this place two years ago.
Let’s rewind a bit. What happened two years ago? I graduated from law school, and into one of the worst legal job markets ever. That study is for the class of 2011, but my class of 2010 wasn’t much better off.
To make my situation a bit more complicated, while I lucked out and found a job, it was a one-year position that was more academic than practical, so I was launched into that terrible job market in 2011 without much of an advantage over those new grads.
So that’s how I found myself, in the fall of 2011, moving back home to my parents, unemployed.
Now fastforwarding nine months, I began my current position at a small firm as an entry-level associate, nearly two years into my legal career.
Am I overqualified for my job? No, but at this point in the timeline of my career, I should be overqualified. That being said, I really do like my job and I’m working a lot and getting into court and doing things that second- or third-year associates at big firms still aren’t doing.
So while I should probably also be making more money than I am — thanks, recession! — and I should probably be further along in seniority, I ended up in a good place and I’m getting great experience.
I honestly am pretty grateful for where I’m at professionally. There are a lot of people who I graduated law school with struggling worse than I am and who still aren’t fully employed as attorneys. I have one former classmate trying to start her own firm while working full time at a car dealership, another teaching LSAT prep courses, and many others temping or just out of the legal field altogether.
During those nine months I was unemployed, there were times I regretted going to law school and I considered what I’d be doing if I hadn’t. I certainly wouldn’t be laying awake at night wondering how I was going to pay back my six-figure student loan bill I got from going to law school.
But then again, I went to law school for a reason.
My undergraduate degree is in Broadcast Journalism and American Studies. Can I imagine myself out there being a TV reporter like some of my Syracuse classmates? At some point between my sophomore and junior years at Syracuse, I stopped picturing myself as a reporter and started thinking of myself as a lawyer. A few months of unemployment didn’t change that. So, no matter how many rejection letters I got, and still get — I’ve been at my job nearly four months and every once in while a rejection letter trickles in — I kept sending more resumes and eventually one stuck and now, here I am, a fully employed attorney.
A lot happened in those nine months. I worked several part-time jobs, but, despite that, I had never felt more useless in my life. I felt like everyone could tell that I was unemployed.
I even waited until 3 PM to go to the gym or run errands so maybe the people who would see me out, even strangers, would think I was a teacher and not a “loser.”
My family, and my parents specifically, were really supportive and never once spoke down to me or thought less of me for the position I was in. I think the most important thing I heard during one of my “I’m a loser” moments was when my dad told me, “You’re the only one who thinks that.” It can be so demoralizing to be unemployed and it was important to be told by my dad that he and the rest of my family knew that I was trying and knew that it was only temporary, not just because I didn’t want them to think less of me, but I think I needed to be told that I shouldn’t think less of me either.
So, I think I’ve successfully demonstrated how loaded a question it is to ask if I’m overqualified for my job. I also think I’ve demonstrated this weird attitude my generation has toward employment.
I’ve spoken to a number of my fellow law graduates and peers and almost universally it seems that we are oddly grateful to work below our paygrade or to work outside our desired field because at least we’re working. Granted, that’s a broad generalization and I can already think of one friend who is the opposite of that statement entirely, but for those of us who graduated into the recession and dealt with unemployment of any length, to be working at all can seem to be a victory in itself.
I’ve been working for several months now and I’ve moved to Boston. Things are looking up.