Saturday, April 01, 2006

Greens and Grays and the Hazards of Being 'Overqualified'


“Well, yes,” she said apologetically, looking over my resume, “you've got a solid background and lots of experience, Mr. Left. But unfortunately, you’re really overqualified for this position.”

I don’t know exactly how many job interviews I’ve been on in the last year. I’d have to check my interview log, which I’ve titled The Book of Broken Promises and Battered Dreams. But I’ve heard that word—“overqualified”—more times than Billy Joel’s been asked to take a breathalyzer test. The very sound of the word makes me cringe.

Whenever I go on a job interview, whether it’s in an office or a retail environment, I always ask to take a tour of the workplace. This gives me a chance to get a sense of the company’s work environment and the types of people the company hires. Based on the kinds of employees I’ve seen on my recent workplace tours, I don’t understand how being “overqualified” could ever be viewed as a liability.

Consistently, I’ve seen workplaces filled with two types of workers. The first I call the Green Type. Green, as in “greener than tomatoes in June”. Workers of this type all seem to be between the ages of 19 and 23. They typically have a wad of fluorescent-colored gum stuck in their cheeks and a large Starbuck’s cup in their hands. The females are typically drenched in perfumes which are dispensed in aerosol cans. Males typically reek of body odor and sport 3-day growths of beard because, like, grooming is a hassle, dude. They have the reading and writing skills of 7th Graders, because their hyper-PC teachers feared “pressuring” them with too much homework (i.e., more than 15 minutes a night). Green Typers frequently stop work to talk with friends on cell phones, text message said friends on Blackberries or listen to “groovycool” tunes on iPods. Green Typers also tend to shout in conversation, because their hearing has been damaged by over-usage of the aforementioned audio gadgets. Do not attempt to argue with or offer advice to a Green Typer. They will not listen. They consider everyone outside their group to be either a bitter old sellout or senile. Better to blunder through a job than to do it properly.

I call the second group the Gray Type. These people are usually between the ages of 55 and 70. They typically smell of Ben Gay, mothballs or Vick’s Vaporub. Gray Typers often tend to engage in acts of blatant slacking off which, in their minds, are justified by either the number of years they’ve spent with the employer or some long-ago service they performed for the employer (“Sleeping at my desk? You’re damned right I’m sleeping at my desk! See that storeroom? I organized it alphabetically. . .in 1979. Now pipe down so I can recover!”). They are usually oblivious to and openly contemptuous of any and all innovations or changes in the way the job is done (“To hell with your new-fangled fax machine! I’ll slip Umberto here $5.00; he’ll deliver this invoice to Kenosha in no time!”) Do not discuss education, especially college education, since most Gray Typers don’t have it (“You and your fancy degree! All I ever needed was the book-learnin’ I got at good ol’ William H. Taft High, goddamn it!”). Gray Typers often interrupt work to tranquilize everyone around them with stories about the Good Old Days. And everything reminds them about the Good Old Days. Do not attempt to argue with or offer advice to a Gray Typer. They will not listen. They consider all non-Gray Typers to be stupid cubs or punks trying to steal their jobs. Jobs they quit doing, for the most part, many years ago.

I don’t get it. “Overqualified”. Overqualified compared to what? The Greens and the Grays? Wasn’t the mantra we all heard in school “Learn more to earn more”? Why do these employers seem to want to fill their stores and offices with rookies who can’t tell up from down or relics who’ve long forgotten the difference?

Did you ever get the feeling that nobody knows just what the hell they’re doing? Lately, I feel like I’m the star of my own personal sit-com and everyone can hear the laugh track except me.

Ah well. I’m going to go home, watch some porn and get hammered. Monday is a new week and a new week brings new opportunities.

3 Comments:

Blogger Happy Villain said...

You got that spot on! Even in my business (the library biz), that's accurate. I remember when you wouldn't dare chew gum at work, and now if you can get the younger staff to stay off their cells for and entire hour, it's a good day. The older ones are worse becasue they stand around all day bemoaning the sorry state of things, which they are contributing to.

John, you have to realize that sometimes you're overqualifications go well beyond the job market.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous daftladybird said...

You painted a picture of the Grey Typers that I can totally identify with. I am the youngest at my workplace by at least 20 years, and I see all the improvements that could and should be made to our library to boost business. My boss doesn't have the energy or the interest to get in gear and get things fixed (and has openly stated at least 3 times to me that she doesn't care what happens to the place once she retires in a couple of years), and neither does anyone else. And here I am, young and energetic, and I can't believe how complacent, hopeless and bored everyone else is. Our cataloguing department, for example, works in the dark, literally, because nobody can be bothered to get the overhead lights replaced. And then they wonder why we have seen the slowest traffic year in history. I just went part-time on trial basis because there is nothing for me to do, and I was tired of wasting my time and the library's money. When you throw an academic and union environment into the mix, it's that much worse.

Sorry for the rant, John. Your post just got me going...(which is a good thing! Thanks!)

5:34 PM  
Blogger Le chameau insatiable said...

I've been working for larger corporations for a while and I know all the bullshit about it. I guess most people, even on the higher hierarchy, do what i do, which is: they work, get paid and don't care about anything else. When i come across some major absurdities, and that happens at least once a day, I switch on the dumb part of my brain. But i keep wondering how these corporations still make some money. I suppose efficiency is not even required. Working to me is the closest to being an actress.

4:25 PM  

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