Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tips on Being Overqualified

I just came across Ask a Manager and thought the blog was very helpful in answering some of the questions I had about references, cover letters, thank you letters after an interview, etc. One of her articles on what to do if you're overqualified was posted at USNWR back in 2008 but I think the tips she mentions are useful to anyone who hasn't read it yet.

So your job

is to reassure the hiring manager that none of these things are true, and in order to be convincing, you need to explain why. For instance:

  • "At this stage in my career, having a job I enjoy is more important to me than salary. I have no problem with earning less than I have in the past."
  • "I want to move into this field, and I know that I need to start at a lower level in order to do that."
  • "I'm deliberately looking for something with fewer responsibilities than I've had in the past so that I can spend more time with my family." (Or because you're going to school at night or have simply realized you prefer lower-pressure jobs.)
  • "I wouldn't take a job I'm not excited about, and I'm excited about this one because ______."

Ideally, the time to address all of this is in your cover letter. Otherwise, you may never get the chance to say it at all, because the manager may simply assume that you don't understand the nature of the position and screen you from the start. And once you get to the interview stage, be prepared to discuss it again, likely in more detail.

If you can successfully put these doubts to rest, many hiring managers will be thrilled to hire your overqualified self. After all, you're a bargain.

Of course, I'm pretty sure she's not addressing people who are overqualified in terms of having a JD or another graduate degree, but overqualified in that they have actual work experience. Maybe we should send Allison a few law related questions. She might have a few helpful tips for law grads looking for entry level careers in other fields.

On another note, I am visiting my friend who is getting her PhD at a top tier school (and has admitted that she'll probably never find a job). Boy did she have plenty of sad stories to tell me. It amazes me how so many smart people remain clueless when it comes to applying to graduate school, taking on mounds of debt, and not realizing that there aren't any jobs to help them pay back that debt. It just shows you that anyone can be fooled and there will be millions more who will join us in the indentured educated class in the coming years.

One of her friends was laid off because her job is being outsourced. What's even sadder is that the company is now paying her to train people in Southeast Asia who will take over her job in a few months. Anyway, instead of learning her lesson she's planning to take out a huge ass loan to go to a third tier business school. Another story she told me was about a mutual acquaintance from college who is attending a tier 1 law school but can't find a job (not surprising). She goes to interview after interview and all of them tell her that as much as they like her, they aren't hiring many new graduates. My question is why then did they offer her an interview to get her hopes up when they knew that she never had a chance of getting the job? Wtf?


  1. Jesus, how depressing.

    I suppose borrowing as much money as you can and then outsourcing yourself, aka fleeing the country, is as good a plan as any. I feel like a trailblazer.

  2. "It amazes me how so many smart people remain clueless when it comes to applying to graduate school, taking on mounds of debt, and not realizing that there aren't any jobs to help them pay back that debt."

    Nice non sequitur.

    You really need to stop pimping for U.S. News. The tier system is marketing B.S.

  3. Yeah, the tier system is total crap. If you (figuratively speaking) think you're soooo much better b/c you went to Yale or Harvard, I would make sure to shame you in some way (publicly if I could help it).

    I've not had as many problems w/the overqualified issue. Maybe my hatred for the typical lawyer & legal jobs pops off the page or something.

    I also have a built in reason to transition into other things: my brother in law died suddenly at the age of 21, right before I learned I'd been accepted to law school (I was 22).

    So since that time, I've known life is far too short to do things you'd hate & I make a point of saying "I want to do A and would HATE doing B." It tends to quite that issue. I also address it right away & ask whether I should even submit anything to prevent wasting my time sending materials that I could have sent to someone who wasn't consumed w/that issue.

  4. Look, the tier system won't die unless clients stop asking for it! Employers at BIGLAW love it because it's an easy shorthand that cuts down on the pool applicants. They know that their clients' knowledge of the practice of law basically boils down to a scoring system that they don't actually understand, but they *think* they understand.

    What does a "tier" actually mean? Who really knows! They get all of the "good" students and their school name is recognizable! That's good enough to be worth paying several million dollars in fees every time somebody sneezes.

  5. Employers, recruiters, and career counselors hesitate to use the term "overqualified" and discourage us from thinking that way. They never want you to that that the education which you are paying a small fortune for will tank in the job market.

  6. In most cases, if you look older than 23, that's the first problem right there. Age discrimination is rampant in law and business careers.



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