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Higher educated workers more insecure: study

The Local/rm · 19 Aug 2011, 18:34

Published: 19 Aug 2011 18:34 GMT+02:00

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The new survey shows that one in three Swedish employees have, on at least one occasion, felt worried to be shown to be less competent than they really are.

And a higher level of education augments this concern.

"Perhaps the saying is true: the more you learn, the more you realise how little you know," the Manpower Work Life study found.

"The fact is that the higher level of education you get, the bigger the chances are that you will suffer from concerns about being a fraud. The tendency is very clear."

Employees with primary education (grundskola) were less likely to harbour this worry with 13 percent claiming to be occasionally concerned they’d be exposed as being less competent than believed at work.

Among those with a university degree that number rose to 44 percent and among those with a PhD to 52 percent.

Those most worried to be found to know less than they should are employees in marketing, advertising and PR, where 53 percent said that they have at least on one occasion felt like a fraud at work.

"Generally speaking, one can say that creative, knowledge-intensive fields are most often affected by feelings of being a fraud," read the study results.

They are closely followed by the research and development sector at 51 percent, as well as media and IT professionals at 47 and 43 percent respectively.

According to the study it is creative and knowledge-based occupations that are most likely to be worried they are less competent than they should.

Within practical occupations such as industry and transport (17 percent) or in the service sector (23 percent) it is less likely that employees worry over being exposed as a fraud.

Story continues below…

The study also showed that 40 percent of those with a university education would have chosen a different specialisation if they were given a chance to choose again.

Women are in majority among those that would choose a different major with 45 percent to the men’s 37.

At the same time, 71 percent of the participants stated that they were happy with their choice - despite the fact that they might have changed their mind if they could make a new choice today.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

20:18 August 19, 2011 by jamesblish
PERHAPS it's true? Of course it's true. The more wisdom you gain, the more you realize how little you know and what a futile quest it all is.
21:46 August 19, 2011 by StockholmSam
I agree with you, jamesblish. This is one of the most interesting and pertinent stories I have ever read in the Local.
21:53 August 19, 2011 by Smallnose
Yes it's true, but it's worrying only 33.3% has this feeling in Sweden.
05:31 August 20, 2011 by johnoleson
Maybe the fear is not unfounded. AS Sweden increasingly promotes formal higher education as the answer to all and dismisses those without as inferior and unqualified no matter how competent that person may be and with the female and racial quotas in the upper positions, it is inevitable that the unqualified will know they have been moved beyond their abilities, thus the dread of being exposed.
07:38 August 20, 2011 by HYBRED
It's pretty well known that if you want a good job you have to exaggerate your education and skills. But then you have "talk the talk" you have to "walk the walk".

But then any higher level education doesn't end, or is complete after college. There is a ongoing learning process. For example; doctors are always reading medical journals and such to keep current. The same applies to many jobs.
11:55 August 20, 2011 by Imperor
jamesblish: Only if your quest is to know "everything" is the quest futile! If you "only" quest to know more there's just an infinite source of information!
13:10 August 20, 2011 by tr2001
as a foreign student i have this feeling since i have come to this country. everybody seems to me so confident and sharp about themselves. people are always right, rules are always right, so if i oppose to someone or any simple rule i will be wrong. this leads me to think: am i a fraud?
13:28 August 20, 2011 by jamesblish
"dismisses those without as inferior and unqualified no matter how competent that person may"

Really? Not really my experience. Actually, in recent years all our leaders have ever talked about is how we can create shortcuts for "school tired" kids to get out easy and how practical skills are great because those people typically get a job straight after high school and thus they are not a liability to the state. On top of that, there's tons of talk about how to solve the unemployment amongst "young people" which in many cases means straight-out-of-high-school-and-no-degree. Even though there's tens of thousands of academics unemployed, too. If there's one thing wrong with this country, it's that we DON'T value higher education.
15:45 August 20, 2011 by Svensksmith
Sometimes I want to be paid what I'm worth. Other times, I'm glad I'm not.
20:53 August 20, 2011 by Abe L
I guess it completely makes sense given the above average amount of people in Sweden employed in positions that they are simply not suitable for. Which is usually a consequence of the very strange requirements in recruitment processes that I've only seen in Sweden.
21:01 August 21, 2011 by bira
If I'm shown to be less competent than I really am does that also mean that I'm smarter than I really am? LOL!! Good one.
01:39 August 22, 2011 by UFO
So much true... i had been in depression for that and now when i know 30-40 % accompany me i am happy and feeling normal
15:25 August 22, 2011 by farnoxo
I am constantly amazed by how many "blaggers" and chancers I come across in my work, so I am not suprised that many of them are worried about being exposed as incompetent - because they are!

Having said this, in my experience the UK takes the cake for having huge n umbers of incompetent bullsh&&rs in senior positions. Something about the English language being so ambiguous perhaps?
02:24 August 23, 2011 by UFO
i think it is also because the supervisor are also so demanding that one stuck into stress if a single result gets wrong
05:34 August 28, 2011 by jomamas
The less 'tangible' a job description is, the more there will be room for 'frauds'.

So - in higher level positions, for example, professorships, or in very 'fuzzy' fields like marketing - there is a higher chance that people can 'talk their way into the jobs' and that political favors are the order of the day.

So - this doesn't mean that this kind of work is not valuable or hard, it just means that politics abound.

Second - I'd like to point out that in such a system *everyone* has some kind of self-doubt and so at times we will always have a sense of being 'a fraud'.

I'm an ex-engineer marketing guy. In engineering, it was easy to know who was was good, who was not, and how to strive to be better.

In marketing, you try hard to be good, but in the end, it makes more sense for your pocketbook to 'kiss ass' and play politics if you want to get ahead, precisely because of the inherent ambiguity in the situation ...

But we need marketers ...

Sadly - this is the case for the world in the future.
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