By the time most people reach high school, they’ve been told repeatedly by educators and parents alike that the more you achieve, the better your chances are at being successful. For most people, that means getting into a good college, securing a job afterwards and becoming a functioning adult. While those may seem like big leaps in cause and effect, the idea is ingrained in the culture of advanced classes, letterman’s jackets and academic competitiveness.
Guilty as Charged
I certainly took that idea to heart, having taken almost every advanced class available to me from eighth grade forward. I managed to cut a year off of my time in college by taking advanced courses in high school. I used those three years in college to their fullest potential. Not only was I a part of the honors program at my university, I also was a writer, photographer and editor of the student newspaper.
In addition to my school work, I worked odd jobs, volunteered teaching underserved children how to read and was a relatively successful journalist and photographer in San Francisco; before I was 21, I was on the masthead of at least one local publication and my work had been featured internationally. I interned every summer and most of my professors agreed I’d do something excellent with my life.
It’s now been four months since I graduated college and, much to my surprise, I haven’t had newspapers sending flowers to my door in an attempt to persuade me to work for them. I’ve gone to job interviews, but more than one potential employer has mentioned both my excess and lack of qualifications. I have too much on my resume to be accepted into an entry-level position, but not enough to push me into a mid-level position. I have more than a few friends with the same problem.
Pick and Choose
One solution is to curate your accomplishments and skills to the position you’re seeking. Nowhere on my resume does it mention I’ve worked with children unless I’m applying for a position that would require me to do so. Part of the problem with doing everything it takes to succeed is just that, many so-called overachievers do everything, which may be interpreted by potential employers as a lack of focus. Most companies want to hire someone who isn’t a “flight risk,” someone who will leave within a year. By making your resume and cover letter focus on your skills and accomplishments that are useful to that position, you may be able to show you’re willing to commit to job at hand.
Go Small or Go Home
The other, less obvious, solution is to seek smaller companies that want to hire extremely flexible employees. Newer companies in particular tend to have slightly smaller budgets that require them to seek out versatile talent. While it may be slightly riskier to join these companies if you’re seeking long term security post-graduation, it may be necessary in order to gain the work skills that would push you to a mid-level position at another company if it doesn’t work out.
While making the most of the opportunities is a great trait to have, it’s equally important to wield those talents well in the workplace. By curbing the clutter on your resume or finding someplace that will hire you because of your diverse skill set, you can get your foot in the door and excel in the next phase of your life.