Taking ‘Any’ 1st Job Could Hurt You for Years



If you take a job for which you’re overqualified right out of college, you could be setting yourself up to earn less money over time, according to economists from Duke University and the University of North Carolina.

The economists used government data that followed Americans who were between 14 and 22 in 1979. Not surprisingly, they found that people were most likely to be “overeducated” when they took their first job. Women were slightly more likely to be in that position than men, possibly because they were more willing to trade a less exacting position for more flex time.

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A key finding: Having a job for which you’re overqualified can impact your wages for more than 10 years. For example, consider a worker who was overeducated for their job four years ago but has a more appropriate position today. Their wages will be 2.6 to 4.2 percent lower than they would have been if they’d never taken that initial job.

It’s not clear exactly why this happens, Vox.com notes. It could be that employers have some kind of prejudice against workers who’ve been in less-than-“good” jobs. Or, it may be that your time in that job put you behind in terms of skills development.

The study was done using numbers for the general population, so it’s not clear how this plays out in the tech world. Plans for a study examining different fields are in the works. Still, it may not be in your best interest to take just any job when you get out of school while you continue to look for a “real” one. The challenge, obviously, is about how you support yourself while you’re looking.

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6 Responses to “Taking ‘Any’ 1st Job Could Hurt You for Years”

June 12, 2014 at 11:44 am, Marcus Johnson said:

Do people actually get paid for doing studies like this? It seem obvious to me if you have a Computer Science degree and your is working at a help desk, it’s very difficult to move to a programming or software engineering position. Believe me I know, my first job was working on the helpdesk and I had to wait for two years and 3 programmers and the application manager to quit in order for me to get a programming job and utilized Computer Science degree. That story is 10 years old, I can only imagine it is a lot worst.


June 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm, John Davis said:

The other aspect to the whole issue is that people in jobs they are over qualified for tend to behind the times vs their colleges who are in jobs that keep up with current trends and technologies. It is basically no different than being on the outside looking in. The only way around it is to spend personal time playing catchup.


June 12, 2014 at 3:43 pm, Fred Bosick said:

I wonder if it has occurred to anyone that, sometimes, you just gotta get a job, any job?

The dorms and cafeteria are no longer available. And, hey, apartment rent and deposit. Maybe even a car to get to work! Whoda thunkit?

The parents thought they were done with support after an expensive 4 years. Waiting for the ideal first job while living in the basement might be more than they can take.


June 12, 2014 at 5:09 pm, Mark said:

The real reason is not skills getting too old, it’s employers that only want to pay x% “more than you made in your last job”. That’s why they so often insist on asking what you are currently getting paid. Just tell them it is none of their business. It is irrelevant if you were underpaid, or under-employed. In fact, most of the employed population is under-employed (if they even have a job). There should be no shame or stigma to that. I laugh at the HR Pros who naively think that everyone gets a pay raise every year, and each successive job always automatically pays more without even considering geographic region, benefits, or factors such as high/low travel, financial responsibility, government clearances and licenses, etc. Yeah, they may get automatic pay raises and always trade up for better jobs, but for the rest of us in the real world there are plenty of lateral moves or times when you must take two or three or four steps backward to start at the bottom to learn a new technology or due to family commitments. Only the really tough can take 50% pay cuts once, or twice, or five times in their careers and still bounce back. Those are the people I would hire, the tough, confident ones. Not the wimps who wouldn’t dare take a 1% pay cut or accept work at a new job that was 10 minutes farther away to commute. There are bold people in this world who do not make all career decisions solely for money. Those who make “backward” moves or take survival jobs to pick up new skills should be rewarded more, not cheated!


June 13, 2014 at 9:36 pm, Nightcrawler said:

Yes, people who take “survival jobs” should be applauded for doing whatever was necessary to support themselves…rather than going on various forms of welfare while waiting for the “perfect job” to come alone.

I stuck it out for 12 weeks at a car lot, at 48+ hours a week, for only $300.00/week. It was a miserable, horrible, awful job, but far better than being on the dole. I’d rather get a paycheck than a government check.


June 19, 2014 at 5:53 am, Joe said:

Your attitude is in short supply these days.


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