Preventing Boredom Resulting from Being Overqualified


Okay, so you were desperate and took a job for which you were overqualified. It seemed like a good alternative to continued unemployment. But now, with the job market still very, very competitive, you’re bored with your job. What can you do?

This can actually be a serious problem. Bored people pay less attention to their work and their performance can suffer. If you have skills you’re currently not utilizing in your job, you are providing less value to your employer. This lower value will likely be reflected in your next raise and perhaps in your job security as well.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take. These will enrich your job now and position yourself for more rewarding assignments – and a higher salary in the future.

Work with your boss

Review your skills set. What skills do you have that you’re not utilizing much on your job? Once you’ve identified these, review them with your supervisor and discuss how you can put these skills to work. Doing so can lessen your boredom while increasing the value you deliver to your employer.

Work with your supervisor to develop a job enrichment program. Bring him proposals. Also try to get your supervisor to commit to actions that will promote you more fully utilizing the full range of your skills.

Capitalize on your untapped skills and experience

So what are your untapped skills likely to be? For experienced chemical professionals, these may include written and oral communications skills, project management skills and other so-called soft skills.

These may also include technical knowledge or skills that other members of your work group don’t possess. Presenting seminars to your work team can provide them with useful information. For example, while working for Shell Chemical on developing surfactants to remove ink from pulped wastepaper, I worked hard to master paper recycling mill technology through reading, attending conferences and visiting paper mills. As this business developed, additional chemists, chemical engineers and technicians joined the group. I presented seminars to these new recruits on the chemical and mechanical engineering technology used in paper recycling mills to improve their competence in working in Shell laboratories, visiting customers, and supervising mill trials of our de-inking chemicals.

Recent graduates may have computer and instrumental analysis skills and chemical synthesis knowledge that their more senior colleagues do not have. So younger chemists also can play a significant role in knowledge transfer processes.

Utilize your skills off the job

Sometimes it’s just not possible to utilize your untapped skills on the job. In this situation, professional society activities and volunteer work can give you an outlet for these skills and provide a source of job-related satisfaction. For example, you can become active in activities of ACS divisions related to your chemical specialty and other interests. Programming and participation in division governance can provide outlets for your management and project management skills while enabling you to develop them further. The professional network you develop can provide speaking, publication and research cooperation opportunities.

ACS local section activities and governance can provide similar opportunities although they tend to be less focused on your chemical specialties.

Your opportunities may not be limited to the ACS. For example, as a result of working on various aspects of oilfield chemistry, I became active in the Society of Petroleum Engineers. I attended conferences that provided opportunities to present papers and promote use of newly developed products and services. I also greatly expanded my professional network meeting industry specialists who do not participate in ACS activities. When I began working to develop products used in paper mills, the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry provided similar opportunities and advantages.

Some volunteer activities can provide sources of professional satisfaction even if they are not job related. For example, many ACS career consultants derive satisfaction from helping ACS members conduct their job hunts more effectively and deal with issues that arise on the job.

John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.

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