Dear Dr. Faizal,

I am a highly educated woman with a Master’s degree in the social sciences. I want to work in the mental health field. The problem is that the jobs that I want to do and have been applying for I’m either overqualified for (educationally) or don’t have the exact skill set for. I’m getting frustrated and, quite frankly, a little depressed. What can I do?

– Overeducated and Underemployed

Dear Overeducated and Underemployed,

It wasn’t long ago when having a university degree (at even the bachelor’s level) meant that a person would be guaranteed a job. Well, times have definitely changed – so much so that a person like you, with a graduate degree, is finding it difficult to acquire a job. I sense the frustration in your message.

I have three options for you. Firstly, it is true that certain employers are seeking workers with specific skill sets. Even if you don’t possess all the required skill sets, I would still apply for the position, and during the interview, I would impress the employer by demonstrating all your other various strengths. When the topic of certain skill sets that you may not have been raised, you may offer the employer an agreement that once hired, you are willing to take courses part-time to obtain the necessary credentials that the job requires. In this way, you would be able to secure the job, and the employer would be able to hire a motivated employee.

A lack of motivation is one reason that employers don’t hire over-qualified applicants. They generally believe that those who are not paid enough – based on their advanced education – will become bored of the position, will not contribute enough, and will become a general nuisance at the workplace. It is up to you to express your passion for the position and to convince your employer that it is the experience – and not the salary – that is your primary reason for applying for that particular job.

An alternative to you seeking a job from others is you becoming a boss yourself. Why not become self-employed? With a Master’s degree in social sciences, you could open up a consulting firm (right out of your own home, if you choose to), and offer services to various community houses, schools, etc.. You could contact colleges and universities for guest lecturing opportunities in your area of speciality. Or you could arrange workshops at various mental health agencies and hospitals. As you are heard and respected for the knowledge you possess, doors that you believed were closed may begin to open, providing further employment opportunities.

Whichever option you may choose, keep in mind that by taking the initiative – and not being defeated by your circumstances – you are overcoming your challenges and transforming drops of depression into heap full of hopefulness.

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