Many years ago, as a teenager, I applied for a job at a local fast food restaurant. The application asked for high school grade point average. Being an excellent student, I happily and proudly put down my GPA. In the interview, the manager looked down at my application and then back at me. “Is this correct?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

He closed the folder and said, “We’re looking for people who don’t make school a priority.” And that ended my job interview.

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21 thoughts on “Is It Possible to Be Too Smart?

  1. I have a measured IQ of 145. This is, however, only one measure of a person’s ability to make it in the world.
    Although I was unaware of the link between intelligence, creativity and depression, I definitely see it in myself and others I know who are highly intelligent.
    I also agree with the article as to being able to foresee the outcome of business plans, etc. I am rarely wrong in this regard and am often sounding the alarm well before anyone else.
    Socially, I have always found it difficult to find others who share similar interests. Fortunately, I am also an introvert (as are the majority of people with high intelligence), and have a couple of close friends who also are very intelligent.

    1. And sometimes we don’t know. My first husband was a school teacher and they like to “drop” their SAT scores into conversations. My last contract had a developer who told me he used to be a junior high school teacher and, in the same breath, told me his SAT score. And after she graduated, my daughter worked for a well-known company that helps train people to take SAT, LSATs, etc. So this was a big topic of conversation.

      And for 40 years I never said anything because I was too embarrassed. Because I never took an SAT test. I didn’t have a score to talk about. In high school I had done some sort of preliminary test and then they told me not to take anything else. I was quite poor and there was a fee so I thought perhaps it was just because I couldn’t afford it. And back then it wasn’t such a big deal.

      But three years ago, when my daughter was visiting and talking about her work, I finally got up the nerve to confess my greatest embarrassment. I told her I had never taken an SAT, that I had taken some kind of preliminary test, something called (and I couldn’t believe I remembered this all these years) a PSATMNSQT and they told me not to take anything else. And she audibly gasped and asked me if I had gotten a National Merit Scholarship. I said yes, along with other financial aid because of my circumstances. That’s when she told me that meant I was a National Merit Scholar and that they had told me I didn’t have to take the SAT because my scores were so high. She said that so few people make that super-high score that they don’t usually recommend taking the first test, they tell them to just save the fee and take the regular SAT.

      Wow. I had never connected the scholarship with that test. I mean, I was in the National Honor Society in high school but so were a lot of other people. If I thought of it at all I probably figured we all got one. After all these years, my secret ‘shame’ turned out to be not be that at all but something pretty cool instead! And my daughter was the one that got to tell me that. She said she always knew I was smart but, sheesh! I still feel good about that.

      1. I was also a National Merit Scholar. That is quite an accomplishment!
        As far a SAT scores go, the test has changed a great deal over the years. I took it in 1976, and it bore very little resemblance to the test my sons took before they graduated from high school in 2006 and 2009.

      2. Who on earth drops their SAT scores into conversation once they’re past college? It’s got nothing to do with being in education–I’m a PhD at a research university and I don’t hear stupid stuff like that.

        People who think it makes them look good are misreading the room.

        1. These were junior high and high school teachers; maybe that makes a difference? Especially in high school, it seemed like such a topic of conversation.

          1. No, I think they were just being sad or obnoxious. I’ve worked in secondary education my entire career, the last ten years on a national basis. I’ve had the honor of working many excellent teachers and NONE of them do this. For what it’s worth, I only work with public high school teachers.

  2. Oh my goodness, yes. In grade school I was already at a 12th grade reading level. (Thank you, Iowa State Tests for helping me figure this out). Doing research, when the only source we had was the encyclopedia and other books in the school library, was an exercise in trying to find small enough words, appropriate to my actual grade level, to use so that my papers didn’t sound like I had copied them directly from the encyclopedia. I also quickly found out that I had to do the same thing for speaking – censor myself from using a four or five syllable word (“architecture”, anyone?) down to a two or three syllable word – or else not talk at all.

    Another coping mechanism I used was “I read it somewhere.” “How’d you know that?” “I read it somewhere.” “How’d you think of that?” “I read it somewhere.” You get the picture. Too dangerous to admit to my own creative thinking. Although I would occasionally get a squinty-eyed stare along with a comment of, “You sure do read a lot.”

    When I hit college it was like coming out of a dark cave into the sunlight. And my chosen profession of IT generally values everything I can bring to the table. Yes, some jobs (and coworkers and managers) have been better than others, but generally, yay!

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I went to a small-town high school and my parents were called in more than once to defend my papers. This was at the beginning of the internet era, and I was frequently accused of plagiarism. The ironic thing was, I talk much the same as I wrote, so my teachers should have noticed my vocabulary.

  3. I read the whole article on Inc., but their site wouldn’t let me comment. Ergo, I’m commenting here!

    You bring up a really interesting point. I mean, hiring folks do say that some people are “overqualified” for certain jobs. I definitely agree with you, though, that employers who don’t take advantage of intelligent workers are missing out. Also, in regards to the police officer who wasn’t hired based on his high IQ, it may be the case that certain employers don’t want people questioning the system, which highly intelligent people are prone to do. Keep in mind I am not making a blanket statement on any group of people here, just on the practices of SOME hiring managers. I hope another agency in other circumstances would have hired this man.Thanks for sharing!

  4. I’d like to hear/see more of different countries/cultures views on this as well. Like is the US more likely to say “hey you’re too smart” than others?

  5. Try having an IQ of 136 (at last measurement) and a learning disability at the same time. 😛

    Teachers always assumed that I wasn’t doing my math homework and failing tests because I didn’t like it. “You’re so smart; this shouldn’t be hard for you.” But it was. Nobody really knew about dyscalculia then. I was reading at a twelfth-grade level in second grade, and they just did not understand.

    Finally, in high school, someone decided I might need extra help, but there wasn’t anything available except the special ed teacher. I refused it because 1) I was nearly done, and 2) in my school, if you went into that room you would be bullied relentlessly, and 3) I was already a victim and didn’t want to make it any worse.

    It wasn’t until I was in music school and couldn’t memorize key signatures or read inverted chords that I began to realize that it might be more of a problem than I anticipated. When I went back to school again later, I ran into other adult students in science class who would say, “I haven’t done this algebra-type stuff in years,” in response to our physics assignments. Well dude, I never made it THAT far. At least you know what algebra even IS. I had to get special permission to take extra time on tests (and I still flunked that unit). I did very well on the units where we had to know information and not do calculations.

    And still later, I heard the word “dyscalculia” on TV and looked it up–oh boy, they were talking about me!

    A few years ago, I was unemployed and having trouble finding a job without accounting, and Vocational Rehabilitation sent me to a neuropsychiatrist. They tested me and EUREKA! I HAD A DIAGNOSIS! Soon after, I managed to find my current job, which plays to my strengths (writing and editing). Any math-ish tasks I have to do can be checked over–I don’t have to do any actual accounting, and someone gave me a copy of her calculator spreadsheet in which I can figure discounts on revenue (yay!). I’ve also found fulfillment in writing novels –or I would, if I could ever sell anything!

    The LD has limited my career prospects in traditional fields because I can’t do budgeting or accounting. I don’t see mistakes and don’t know what processes to use. You have to show me, and then it’s gone the next day. People don’t understand it when I try to explain it–I still run into the same business of “But you’re so intelligent and articulate and creative!” Well yes, because the LD doesn’t affect ALL of my brain. Just the math part. It’s this ONE thing I cannot do.

    It sometimes bums me out a little, because if I could handle the math, I would have loved to be a scientist. 🙂

    1. I lived this nightmare with my equally gifted and LD daughter. Her LD (dysgraphia) is typically male pattern. She was unable to “write” her homework assignment, as the motor reflexes to “copy” did not work.” Fortunately a great school counselor noticed that all my daughter’s friends were the exceptionally gifted children and made the guess of her having an LD. But having been punished enough, grade school and HS were tough. She did graduate college with a math degree.

  6. I tend to overestimate other people’s abilities and that always gets me into trouble because I make decisions based on the assumption that their work is accurate. As a researcher, I am shocked at how many people (including senior professors) cut corners and “guesstimate” things. I would much rather they say, “I don’t know”, but they don’t.

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