Advice for the Overqualified Woman

If I had trusted my gut 3 months ago, I would not have applied to my current internship.

If I had trusted my gut 3 months ago, I would not have applied to my current internship.

In 2014, Hewlett Packard conducted an internal survey where they found that “women applied … when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements” Kay & Shipman, The Confidence Gap, The Atlantic.

My name is Alexandria, and I am a Marketing Coordinator at EXL Service, a B2B analytics agency based out of New York. An anomaly, I applied to my current position despite only meeting 93% of the qualifying factors. As a female in the workforce, I interpreted the missing 7% as a clear indication that I did not qualify for the role. Yet, likely by some sort of divine intervention, I dismissed that gut instinct and submitted my CV.

Despite the position falling into place, I initially struggled to feel worthy (7% unworthy, to be exact). Discontent, I took my woes to Google, where I came across Kay and Shipman’s The Confidence Gap. They concluded, “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.” This triggered an epiphany – I was not underqualified, but worse, under-confident. Shedding my diffidence was no small feat – it required several months, numerous mistakes, and exceptionally patient mentors. With that said, I now feel confident, even proud of myself and my abilities as a budding professional, which I attribute to 3 core practices:

  1.     Surround yourself with successful women

As motivational speaker, Jim Rohn so famously stated, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with” – so choose wisely (literally). Surround yourself with the five wisest/kindest/brightest/[insert desired trait here] women you know.

  1.     Practice a work/life balance

The only right balance is the one that keeps you sane. Sunday night may be the new Monday morning, but only if you let it. Do what fulfills you, not what your colleagues deem acceptable.

  1.     Don’t trust your gut

If I had trusted my gut three months ago, I would not have applied to my current internship. This is not to say I dislike my position, in fact, it is beyond my wildest expectations, which is also why I found it so daunting. Self-doubt likes to disguise itself as intuition – do not be deceived.

Ultimately, as a woman, it was never a matter of being under-qualified. It was the misconception that we must be over-qualified in order to simply level with our male counterparts. With the right mindset, we can finally see what our many skill sets bring to the table: not only are we often qualified for the job, but we are extraordinarily good at it, too.

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  1. I really needed this reminder! The imposter syndrome can be so real and I struggle with it all the time. I think it’s really important to build women’s confidence just as much as men, because we deserve to apply for those jobs!!

  2. Your point that “Self-doubt likes to disguise itself as intuition” is extremely eye-opening. I think most of us, definitely including me, like to assume that when in doubt, your gut is the best judge- but it is also so true that an uneasy feeling could very well be nerves holding me back from a daunting opportunity as you said. Your post reminds me of a book I read recently, written by Shonda Rhimes called the “Year of Yes”. She spoke about a lot of these same ideas and it was incredible how dramatically her life changed by no longer allowing herself to remain in her comfort zone by saying no, while also saying yes to the things that scared her- I definitely recommend the read!