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What to Do When You're Overqualified for Your Job -- and Your Boss Just Doesn't See It

By Maurie Backman - Feb 9, 2018 at 11:32AM

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You're smart. You're competent. So why won't your manager trust you to do more?

You got your degree and have been putting in your time in the workforce ever since -- so much so that you've grown to become a pretty skilled employee on a whole. There's just one problem: Your boss refuses to acknowledge that you're capable of doing so much more than the work you're currently tasked with.

Being underutilized at work can easily make you feel frustrated and unhappy, but worse than that, it can also impede your career growth. After all, how can you be expected to land a promotion when you're doing the same grunt work you did back when you started as an entry-level employee?

Man sitting at desk with laptop in front of him holding his face in the palm of his hand.

Image source: Getty Images.

Don't despair. There are ways to get your boss to realize that you're capable of so much more. Here's how to build that case.

1. Emphasize what you can do -- not what you shouldn't be doing

If you're being underutilized at work, you may be inclined to march into your boss's office with a list of tasks you feel you should no longer be stuck with. But if you want that conversation to go well, resist that urge, and instead focus on the many tasks you're proficient at. For example, rather than say that booking conference rooms and coordinating lunch reservations is beneath you, try saying, "I think compiling reports will be a much better use of my time given my background, and it will allow me to add more value to the business." This way, you're making concrete suggestions rather than simply complaining.

2. Take on projects independently -- and rock them

If your boss doesn't seem willing to give you complex assignments, then your next best bet might be to invent projects that'll help the business and complete them on your own time. This way, you'll be able to show your manager what you accomplished with what was clearly zero guidance. And once those results speak for themselves, your manager might remove some of the aforementioned grunt work from your plate and replace it with career-boosting responsibilities.

3. Revisit your job description

It's one thing if, after years on the job, you're stuck in the same position, but it's another thing if you were told you'd be doing certain tasks in your current role, only to have that not come to be. If you're spending your days working on menial tasks that are clearly nowhere to be found in your job description, then you have every right to bring that to your manager's attention. But again, don't complain about those tasks. Rather, express your disappointment that the work you've been doing is so drastically different from the job description you were given initially. If your boss actually sees what you were hired to do, in writing, then he might come to realize the error of his ways.

Feeling overqualified at work can be maddening, but rather than resign yourself to another year of answering phones and making photocopies, take steps to address the problem. Your happiness and career depend on it.

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