What do you do when you’re getting too smart for your job?

Written by: Georgina Bloomfield
Published On: 3 Feb 2016

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re feeling that you may be too clever for your current position in your career. You may have been aware of this for some time, but you’re worried about how to proceed. After all, the position has great perks, isn’t a bad commute from home and you get along with everybody there. On paper, it’s your dream job – but something just isn’t quite right. Here are the signs that you may be too advanced for your current role and what to do about it:


You’re bored, but it’s a different sort of bored

Don’t mistake being bored at work for being too smart for your job. You need to question the job itself and your work ethic. Is it a case of needing more energy and enthusiasm from your part – or is it because the challenges you face are difficult for others but quite mundane for you? If you can pinpoint what sort of boredom you’re experiencing, then you can find a solution. Remember, boring projects can still lead to exciting prospects, so just because a project or task is boring, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. You need to ask yourself if the task really contributes to the end goal. If it does, then it’s not about you being too smart for your role.

What is your experience?

This isn’t a sign of you being too smart for your job – but you need to ask yourself what stage you are at in your career. Have you been coasting along for some time without hope of progression? Have you been looking for a promotion but it hasn’t come to you yet? There’s a high chance that you’ve become too smart for your job if you find that you’re a little too comfortable in your role. If your manager isn’t giving you enough challenges then you may be facing an issue. Can you see a pathway in your role? If you’re aware of a vacancy internally that means more tasks and a promotion, then go for it! Before you do, read my articles on getting that promotion and smashing the internal interview.

It could be that the position above yours still isn’t challenging enough. You may have to stick through it; depending on the industry you’re in, you may have to make lots of little progressive steps to finally get to a challenging enough role that suits you.

What’s the future?

Speaking of progression, what’s the future of your department? If your boss hasn’t got any real foresight for where things are going, maybe it’s time for you to get moving elsewhere. Are your ideas taken seriously by your boss, or do you always get pushed back? As employees (and humans, come to that) we’ll feel pretty undervalued fairly quickly if we can’t feel like we can share our ideas which we feel will only make improvements. Unfortunately, it could be that you know more about the job than your boss does, and he/she could feel threatened – this ultimately means your ideas may be dismissed without good cause. If this is the case, it’s definitely time to leave.

Watch your colleagues

Are your colleagues aware of what’s going on? When you discuss work matters with them, do you have a productive and stimulating conversation or are you left feeling frustrated and misunderstood? Don’t get me wrong, you might just have boring colleagues – but if you have some great ideas for improvement in your department and they’re not willing to look at being more innovative, then you might find that you’re left feeling a bit isolated. On the other hand, if your colleagues listen to you far too much and you’re doing more teaching and mentoring rather than learning, you’re not helping your career (other than gaining possible leadership skills!)

When you have nobody to learn from within your company it can be difficult to see where your career is headed. If it seems that you’re the person everybody wants to learn from, make sure you’re holding a position (and subsequent pay packet) to justify it.

Sometimes, having just one or two of these qualities isn’t a bad thing. They can trigger you to take your career head-on and go for that promotion at work. It’s important that you still let your boss know about your struggles before you start applying elsewhere. It might even be that you’re doing such a good job that others haven’t noticed how you’re feeling. You don’t need to say that you think you’re too good for the role (please don’t!) but instead say that you’re looking for some fresher challenges which will utilise your skills better and contribute more to the company’s objectives.

Better still, if you have a particular project or position in mind, it’s a good idea to lead with a solution rather than a problem. Most (good) bosses will try their hardest to challenge you more or help you succeed with some training if there’s nothing more they can do for you. If you’ve hit the ceiling in terms of both skillset and job role, then it’s time to look elsewhere.

This is actually a good thing. Having to leave your job to go on to bigger and better things can be really exciting and different. Plus when you go for an interview you can discuss your new skillset and what you can offer to the new company. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’ve outgrown your current position, as long as you’re positive about your reasons for leaving.