According to a recent study, almost half of all employed Americans with college degrees are overqualified for their jobs. In 2010, 15% of taxi drivers had bachelor’s degrees, compared to 1% in 1970, and 25% of retail sales clerks had bachelor’s degrees, compared to 5% in 1970.

In fact, U.S. overqualification has become such a large problem that in 2013, The Globalist published an article titled “The U.S. Overqualification Crisis: Why the United States is looking to Germany for answers on higher education.”

Now, many degree programs encourage American students to avoid doctorates and/or other certifications because having these will make it harder for the students to find jobs. Engineers are warned not to get certified as Professional Engineers (PEs,) because companies typically hire only a handful of licensed PEs, but hire many more unlicensed engineers.

American employers have several reasons why they avoid hiring people who are overqualified for a position. Some of their biggest reasons include:

Higher salary expectations – someone with more qualifications is likely to expect to be paid more money.

Promotion expectations – someone with more qualifications might accept a job that’s “beneath them” only because they expect to be promoted quickly to a job that’s more deserving of their higher skills.

Upstaging – someone who has more qualifications and/or experience than their boss might have difficulty following orders.

Short term – someone who is overqualified is likely to lose interest in their position, and won’t stay for very long.

Show ‘n Tell

As children Americans learn at an early age to be on – or to be put onto – center stage. As early as Kindergarten, in Show and Tell, they are asked to bring something personal into school: a toy, a stuffed animal, one of their favorite books. They stand before their peers and present.

They practice not only speaking in front of a group – the first experience with public speaking – they learn how to speak about themselves and their feelings. And when they do, they seek from the other children attention, positive feedback, ultimately approval. They are in presentation mode.

It is the same with letter-writing. American children are taught not only to feel free to begin sentences with I. They are encouraged to write in the active, not passive, form. They should write from their individual, personal perspective. Letters are per definition a personal and consciously subjective form of communication.


A persuasive curriculum vitae (resumé) in the American context stresses achievements, awards and areas of special competence. It is not an official document produced by a neutral party such as a government agency or an educational institution, but rather a testament to how what was learned has been applied in the real world.

Resumés in the U.S. are in a way (self-)marketing documents. Americans highlight not only their subject area expertise, but also their character strengths, such as persistence, discipline, teamwork and, of course, leadership. Every American reader of an American resumé knows that they are carefully written subjective statements aimed at a specific effect.

Feynman on Simplicity

Feynman-thoughts on simplicity:

You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity. When you get it right, it is obvious that it is right – at least if you have any experience – because usually what happens is that more comes out than goes in. Sympathetic Vibrations

When I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real, I wasn’t upset; rather, I was relieved that there was a much simpler phenomenon to explain how so many children all over the world got presents on the same night! The story had been getting pretty complicated. It was getting out of hand. What Do You Care What Other People Think?

We can’t define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: “You don’t know what you are talking about!”. The second one says: “What do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?”  The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. I, 8-2

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry. The Character of Physical Law

Sich bewähren

sich bewähren means to prove one‘s worth or value, to be reliable, to have worked. From Middle High German meaning to turn out to be true, right, correct.

In Germany there is no higher testament to quality than something which has proven itself over time. Das hat sich bewährt, that has proven itself, is very persuasive to German ears. Over generations, decades, even centuries. Solid, known, established, predictable, tested.

In German literature and movies, the harking back to family, tradition, home region is a constant theme. The ideal, idyllic world is to be protected against the corrupting forces of modernity.

German companies, time and again, advertise their solidity, quality, reliability by stating their longevity and tradition: Established 1885. Above the entrance doors of German Fachwerkäuser – half-timbered houses traditional in the Middle Ages, also called gingerbread houses – one can read Erbaut 1375.

“Don’t be pushy!”

Martin Wehrle, a German managment coach, writes career-articles for DIE ZEIT. In a recent article he advises: Nicht aufdrängen! – Don’t be pushy! He notes that many job applicants are far too aggressive, as early as in the initial sentences of their cover letter.

“Because I am a perfect fit for the position, I am sending you my application ….” Starting off like that almost guarantees an immediate rejection, writes Wehrle.

Instead of allowing the reader to make her own judgement, the applicant makes it for them. Personnel departments want to make their own decision who is right for the company. That’s what they get paid for.

Wehrle recommends: “Intelligent applicants act like witnesses before a jury. They don’t push the jury to a decision. Instead they simply state the facts, objectively.

The more objective the witness comes across, the more they are believed. The best applicants don’t speak for their application. Their application speaks for them.

Business Schools

American business schools offer degrees in business administration. The focus is primarily on analyzing quantifiable factors. The predominant subjects are finance, accounting, statistics. The methods are data-driven, structured and rigorous. The goal is to be as scientific as possible.

As of 2012 there were 662 business schools in the United States. Out of 436 schools reporting, over 168,000 students were enrolled in Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) programs in 2012 alone. From 2008-2009, 347,985 Bachelor’s degrees, 168,375 Master’s Degrees and 2,123 Ph.D.s were conferred in Business and Management. Many Americans believe in the the discipline of business administration.

The Lords of Strategy

Written in 2010 by Walter Kiechel, former managing editor at Fortune magazine and editorial director of Harvard Business Publishing, best-selling The Lords of Strategy describes the history of ideas in the field of management strategy over the past forty years through the rise of the strategy consulting firms McKinsey, BCG and Bain, as well as notable business schools.

A reviewer – Jeffrey Swystun – wrote on amazon.com that Kiechel “sees the best strategy consultants as objective intellectuals who see patterns of evidence and put them through conceptual frameworks to produce pragmatic insights“.

“No problem“

Cultures which work closely together, at some point, come up with insider jokes about each other. An insider joke is one which just about everyone in the one culture immediately understands. Hopefully, the spirit of these jokes is friendly and good-natured. The Americans have theirs about the Germans. And the Germans have theirs about the Americans.

“No problem” isn’t even a joke, it’s a phrase. More is not necessary, for every German who has experience working with Americans knows what another German means when they speak it: That Americans are often quite naive about a problem, about its seriousness, impact, complexity (from the German perspective).

So when Americans substitute the term ‘opportunity’ for the word ‘problem’, Germans can become a bit nervous. For many problems offer little to no opportunities. They are simply problems. And they need to be dealt with.

Robber Barons

Robber Barons was the name given to exceptionally successful business people in America during the late 19th and early 20th century. Most of the Robber Barons came from humble backgrounds, and started businesses at times when many industries were beginning to grow substantially. 

Robber Barons were both admired as people who became rich and powerful, yet hated as monopolists who exploited their workers. In fact, these Barons were able to create such a large divide between rich and poor that Jay Gould, a gold and railroad Baron, once allegedly said “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”

In 1890, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed, the first law enacted to limit the exploitation scope of the Robber Barons’ business practies. The Sherman Act outlawed monopolies and anything which unreasonably restricted trade, such as price fixing. Over the following decades, more business regulations were enacted, bringing the reign of the Robber Barons slowly to an end.