Monday, June 28, 2010

Is Anyone Ever Over-Qualified?

I grew up with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all saying various form of, “the wise person knows what they don’t know,” and “the more you know about your field, the more you realize how much there still is to learn.” Powerful messages for continuous learning!

Imagine my surprise when someone said, “You realize, you’re over-qualified for this work.” Freakin’ freaky. How can anyone be over-qualified? There’s always more to learn.

As a learning professional, I have, at times, taught the same course content over and over and over. There were times that I taught a course so many times in a row that I lost track of whether or not I’d covered key points with my current class. Even then, every class I taught also taught me something. Each was class brought new insights on learning, on how my learners dealt with the content in relationship to their work, on how effective I was as an instructor. Each class brought challenges in physical spaces, timing, class dynamics, unique individual and group needs. With each class, I learned more and more.

After 12 years of heavy classroom training, I moved into a phase of heavy instructional design and learning project management. Every project is different. Every situation has different needs assessment processes, different sponsors, different teams, different tools and methods, different designs, different development timelines and products, different iterative testing procedures… and different results. Can one ever learn everything there is to know about design and development? About learning project management? I certainly haven’t gotten to that point. There’s so much more to learn and experience.

In the late 1970s, I started working with learning technologies. In almost thirty years, I have yet to be bored by the field. As our tools “learn” better and faster, instructional designers, developers and course facilitators must re-evaluate our own knowledge and experience about what works – why and how. As science better understands the brain and the way that both humans and electronics learn, there are new horizons for professional development.

So, I continue to struggle with the concept of being over-qualified. People who are passionate about their field continue to learn from it and from each other – always. They never see themselves as “over-qualified” but as “highly-qualified” and continuing to learn.

In the end, it may be that there are two perspectives – the individual (who is always learning) and the organization. Organizations are all about matching individual resources to a perceived need. As organizations develop new functions, their leaders define needs that they are capable of perceiving and describing. Human Resources restructures that definition as position description with minimum requirements – not maximum or even ideal… minimum. This could lead to an applicant for a position having skills that so far exceed the desired minimum they are perceived as over-qualified… which in turns leads to issues like that of Case of Sal in previous blogs.

Are you over-qualified? If not today, you soon will be. Advancing skills and knowledge change our match to the minimum requirements of posted positions… and, perhaps, to our leaders’ ability to envision new work for our ever increasing skills.

However, we all continue to grow where we're planted. So, even if you too are over-qualified for your work, show your true colors by continuing to learn and grow -- even it means learning about what it means to be "over-qualified" for the available work.

The Performance PI

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