How Can I Ask for More Challenging Work Without Appearing Entitled?

Insights from career experts when feeling overqualified for a job
Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC
Marciano Bagnoli, Quality Manager, Georgia-Pacific LLC

First, be sure that you are completing all of the work you are given - up to - or beyond expectations. Asking for more challenging work when you are not addressing your current tasks will likely lead to dismissal. If you are mastering the work you are doing now, look at the work your colleagues/boss are doing, and find ways you can help the cause. Ask how you can help and start with small contributions. No project is done by a single contributor, and the more exposure you get by successfully managing the work that is given to you, the greater your chances at being selected for the next step.

Moji Bonakdar, Senior Director, Chemical Medicines, USP
Moji Bonakdar, Senior Director Chemical Medicines, USP

Request a meeting with your manager: Explain why the company and your current job matches your lifestyle and priorities. That can help to put your manager’s mind at ease. You might be looking for a higher-level job because you want to contribute more to the organization or you want to work with the next generation of talent in your industry by accepting additional responsibilities.

Don’t expect your manager to read your mind, since that can lead to all manner of faulty assumptions. Normally, your manager is aware of your skill sets and your performance. You need to ask yourself these questions: How strong were my ratings in the past 2-3 years? Did l exceed my performance standard objectives? Were you rated strong instead of very strong? Strong means, you performed and exceeded in one more area outside of your objective standard. But if you were rated 2 years in a row as very strong, then it is not based on your feelings.

It is based on your performance and you have data to back up your claim for being overqualified for current tasks. Get an appointment with your manager and express your desire to take on additional responsibilities. Your manager is responsible for planning a career development for you. 

Rich Uriarte, ACS Career Consultant
Rich Uriarte, ACS Career Consultant

In professional and college sports you often hear the cliché that “you need to get better every day.” The same is true for industrial positions.

In most entry-level positions, scientists are expected to have frequent discussions with their supervisor on how to grow, learn, and discuss what it takes to advance to the next level.  This is the perfect time to ask for more challenging work assignments and try to position you for future success.

As you map out your career with your supervisor or manager, you should constantly be evaluating your job responsibilities and be looking for new growth opportunities. Talking about these with your manager is healthy and can be initiated by you, or through joint discussions with your manager. 

Heinz Plaumann, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantum Qik Careers
Heinz Plaumann, CEO and Co-Founder, Quantum Qik Careers

You must have a VERY clear understanding of the role and what is expected – this may require a discussion with leadership clarifying and confirming expectations. Show that you are capable of performing the current job with excellence. This is best achieved by in-job results – talk is cheap. Tangible evidence wins the day!

If after such discussions, you still feel overqualified, consult with someone currently in a similar role, or recently in the role. Rather than undervaluing your expertise to fit your understanding of the job, what would it take to show you are a highly valued contributing member to this and future teams?  Could the leadership expand the role to improve the match?  Could you offer to train and mentor others to increase their expertise and potential to contribute and succeed?  Consider options outside the “paid scope” of the job. 

If you still feel overqualified/undervalued this may be an opportunity for growth – New Job, New Employer, New Career!!

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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