Overqualified and Underpaid: Your Career Detour


So you’re doing a job you are over qualified for. That’s not that uncommon these days.  I have friends who are working in positions they had mastered several years back. They have more education, experience, skill and knowledge than the job requires, and yet, they find themselves performing tasks that those whom worked for them used to do. Whether you are in this situation because of a life transition, a re-entry into the work force or a corporate restructure, you might be tempted to be frustrated and even disillusioned. Before you get too discouraged consider:


You are not defined by what you do. For most guys this is easier said than done. We often have too much of our identity tied up in our careers. I know I do.  I often need to be reminded that who I am as a person is much more important than what I do as a professional.

Strong performance gets rewarded. Starting over is not fun because there’s no challenge in doing something you’ve done before, but it also allows you not to make some of the same mistakes and to move faster through familiar territory. Performers get noticed and rewarded. Do a good job and soon you’ll be back at the varsity team.

There’s purpose and meaning even in life’s detours. Some of my greatest professional and personal accomplishments have come from the seemingly disastrous. I would have not started The A Group without being asked to leave a business I helped start and that owed me a lot of money I never saw. Sometimes the detour is a blessing in disguise. I know that’s not much consolation while you’re in the early days of the detour, but if you stick with it long enough, you’ll be able to see the positive in it.

Are you, or have you been in a career detour situation?

  • I’ve been in one for the past two and a half years. Lost my last full time job in December 2008, and the only thing I’ve been able to find is a part time job, making under $8.50 an hour, doing work that a college student used to do. It’s been very humbling, to say the least. But, because of it and other factors, I launched my college ministry into it’s own nonprofit (and am working on fundraising) and have started a freelance marketing and graphic design business. It could end up being a great detour.

    • Anonymous

      That’s awesome Jason!  

    • I’m praying it’s a great detour for you, Jason.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been unemployed once in my life. After a few months I looked for a PT job while I continued looking for a REAL job. My bachelors and masters degrees are in mechanical engineering and that’s what most of my experience is in.   It’s not that I thought the work was beneath me,   I didn’t think anyone  would hire me for the entry position that only required a high school diploma. I even considered lying about my experience & education. Wouldn’t that be wise?  Ha!  I was blatantly honest about everything including that I was waiting for Boeing to start hiring and I’d leave. I got hired by an airline 9 years ago as an customer service agent. I had supervisors that were right out of high school. I didn’t mind the work.  Passengers were a trip to deal with. 

    It was humbling but so worthwhile. Learning how to budget and live off of $10 per hour.  It was a great detour . Because I was in a union position and had great flight benefits, I did a lot of keynote speaking during that period to make extra money.  I got to the point that I started a side business speaking. But  then I got curious as to how an airline is ran. I started networking with higher powers. I’m still with that airline making WAY more than $10/hr. But not speaking as much anymore. 

    Your article is so timely. I’m getting anxious to do something different.  I’ve been wondering if I should do same thing (take a major pay cut and go do something completely different) or be more balance so I can pursue other goals outside of work. 

    • Whatever you decide to do, Laurinda, do it with full abandon.

  • I needed this, Maurilio, and you know why. Thanks for your encouragement that, seemingly, was written just for me.

    • Scott, you and a few other friends were the inspiration for this post.

  • Wow, did I need this post today Maurilio!  After serving as an associate pastor at a church in Colorado, I resigned because of some pressure from a couple of Elders who wanted to push a different agenda that didn’t include having me on staff anymore.  I was talking to several other churches at the time and it looked like I would have another position within 3-6 months.  God had different plans for my life because that was over 4 years ago.  At the end of this month, I will have been a shift manager at my local Starbucks for 4 years.  Serving morning coffee for 250-300 customers each weekday has taught me so much about myself, God, and the “real world.”  I went to Bible College and Seminary and have served four churches as a paid staff member, but I have learned more about how to pastor people in my four years as a barista than I did as a student or even a vocational pastor.  I don’t know where the road will lead me and my family from here, but I have just started a book that I will tentatively title Holy Detour, Batman which tells my learnings from behind the espresso machine.  I also want to right a book down the road called You Just Got Decaffed: 25 Confessions of an Honest Barista!

    • These life lessons could be the education you needed for the next chapter in your ministry. Glad you’re learning and growing through it. Keep it up.

  • Anonymous


    Working at Walmart for 1/3 what I made 3 years ago.

    But like some of the folks who’ve commented here, I can’t believe how much I’ve been learning.


    The financial stress comes awfully close to doing us in.

    • Thank you for the comment and the honesty. Praying that your next chapter is more financially rewarding.

  • Joshua Cotten

    Thanks Maurilio, this is a great post and reminds us that God has a bigger plan for us than we believe at the time we begin our detours.  
    I spent 6 years working in the entertainment industry, sure that God has placed me there for a purpose.  However, I felt that I wasn’t really growing professionally and was merely trying to keep my head above water (working in that industry in L.A. is brutal).  Credit card debt had built up and my marriage was falling apart.  I lost my job, with no severance, when the company folded and began temping to make whatever I could.  At about the same time, my wife left.  I was crushed…couldn’t understand why God would allow these things to happen when I truly felt he had me in L.A. for a reason.  I found a good temp position with Disney that looked as if it was going to eventually turn into a full-time position doing a job I was probably overqualified for, but still enjoyed doing.  I felt that I was finally working my way towards the varsity team.  And then the market crashed.  Major corporations were making cuts everywhere and as I was a temp, I was one of the first to go.  

    At that point, I knew I had to do something drastic.  I started looking for a job throughout the U.S.  I ended up landing a job in Jacksonville, FL, and made the move immediately.  It was hard leaving my friends and my dreams back in L.A., but I knew that I had to get out.  While in Jacksonville, I met (online) an amazing, God-fearing woman.  After about a year and a half, I married her and moved to Tennessee, where she lived.  I had to quit my job in order to do that, but a couple months later was rehired and allowed to work 100% remotely.  I have learned a great deal in this job and I believe that it truly has given me a vast amount of experience on my resume in an area that was completely lacking.  I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back to the entertainment industry, but my wife is convinced that the Lord gave me that experience and passion for a reason.  We’ll see what happens!

  • I swear you must have been inside my head on Monday. Been struggling with this very thing. Recently received my MBA and need to reminder to show up and work hard w/ a smile.

    Thank you.

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