The Dangers of Being Under –and Over– Qualified During a Recession

We’re in tough times. With some calling Denny’s free Grand Slams akin to a soup kitchen, we know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

As a result, you’ll notice some commentary from me on my blog that has little to do with corporate web strategy, but I know my readers, and these are the things that keep them up at night, well heck, just about everyone.

While some say that the ‘fat’ from the company is being let go, I am seeing some of my contacts and friends who I know are very capable transferring to the ‘mobility pool’. When you see thousands getting cut in single strokes, you know that very qualified professionals will be let go. Layoffs impact families, cause home stress, force individuals to rethink their expenses, and even make people move to less desirable areas.

Over Qualified Combat For Positions They’re Surprised to Consider
Some of these capable professionals will be applying to positions that they’ve never thought of before, perhaps jobs they would have been delighted to entertain these jobs 5, 10, or even 20 years ago but now, food on the table is top priority. Some will even fight for jobs in new industries that they’ve never considered before, perhaps in retail, food service, or other industries that are polar opposite of plush corporate jobs.

So what’s the challenge? It seems like they should easily be able to walk into any position and after the first interview land the job, right? Not so fast, employers will want to still hire the best fit for the job –not necessarily the most experienced or capable. Why? someone with too much experience or too much education for the position may demand a higher salary –or ask for more a few months down the road. Secondly, these overqualified candidates are flight risks, as soon as the economy picks up, they’re gone to find a more suitable position with better perks and pay.

This puts well qualified workers into a real dilemma if they need to find a new job, here are the options:

  • Suck it up and apply for less than desirable positions, but strut your stuff, hoping the employer will realize what a good buy you are
  • Dumb down the resume and interview skills not to let in that you’re over qualified for the position
  • Hold out for a job that suits their actual level of experience and education –despite that cash in hand may be slipping by.
  • Take a lateral move and go back to school and get that MBA you’ve always wanted
  • Create their own business, or simply move to beautiful Hana, Maui and live off the land. Really, traveling during a recession is cheap, I saw rates for Hawaii for $250 a round trip.
  • What’s the answer? Each individual will have to figure out what strategy works best for them, I’m sure we’ll see variations of the above.

    Under Qualified Battle Against Experienced
    My kid sister just graduated college, so I’m seeing how this impacts her generation.

    I occasionally get emails from college students that are reading this blog, and some of them are going to graduate and head into the workforce. They have perhaps equally a tough spot as the overqualified as they may be competing for positions with candidates that have actual work experience.

  • Some advice for you, you should be working in real world applications during college, part time, internships, or even at the computer lab on campus. While good grades and the diploma are certainly helpful, in corporate, there’s a reason why the education section goes to the bottom of the resume.
  • Secondly, read more and more free content online from blogs, trade sites, and industry news to pick up on the language and real world issues in the industry that you’re aiming for. Likely you have more time than money, so get really in tune with your market.
  • Go back to school and get that graduate degree –but run the risk of not having enough work experience when you hit the workforce.
  • The Kid Sister chimes in, and suggests students should take advantage of career fairs, read her thoughts in the comments.
  • Career Considerations for Everybody
    Here’s a few other things to consider during these lean times. Have you paid yourself first during the high times? Did you build your network before you needed them? You don’t want to be classified as a “nut”worker. Also, it’s not as bad as it seems (at least for people connected to me) read these survey results.

    Give some Advice in the Comments
    I’ve spelled out a few options and suggestions, but I’d like to hear from you, what should the under and over qualified job candidates do to succeed in a tough economy.

    • This article touches on age discrimination in Silicon Valley (and New York):

      http://www.misterthorne.org/ESSAYS/good_old_times.html

    • Thank you Mr Thorne, great writing as always

    • This funny –but all to relevant video should lighten you up, thanks from Jonathan Browne for link

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hlWaiX4tNo

    • When I retired from the military a few years ago, and the job I had lined up didn’t come through, a lot of my experience was either outdated — I hadn’t managed a big project in a few years — or irrelevant to the private sector — not a lot of call for space & missile command & control experience in the Research Triangle area. I went with the “suck it up and apply for less than desirable positions” option, and ended up with two part-time jobs: one a dream, and the other … a good learning experience. I still have the part-time dream job, and have traded the learning experience for a full-time near-dream job, so I consider myself very blessed.

      I don’t remember where I heard or read this advice, but I find it to be helpful: as you interact with people — whether in person or on the phone or over the Internet — don’t focus so much on what that person can do for you. Instead, think about what you might be able to do for them. It’s the difference between coming to someone with hat in hand, and coming to them with a helping hand.

    • Gray

      Excellent advice. ‘Hats’ off to you.

    • If you know how to sell, then get a sales job. All companies need sales.
      Moreover if you know how to sell, then you will probably be good in selling yourself.

    • As one of the many thousands who is unemployed due to the economy of late, Jeremiah has done a great job outlining what has become a really tough decision for a lot of people. Sometimes the answer is all of the above, though. State Unemployment and/or savings can only last for so long for most people, so there may come a time when you need to maybe look below where you think you ought to be.

      There are jobs out there, but listings are nowhere near as generic as they used to be, looking around, I’m finding that job descriptions are much more specific in what they are looking for. Obviously some industries are more affected than others…technical jobs or highly skilled labor may have an easier time than someone with a wider range of employment options like someone in marketing or sales.

      Its a tough world out there, but it’s by no means an impossible climb to make to your place on the mountain.

    • I totally relate. I’ve started a small business to keep me sharp and hopefully bring in some money. But the economy is hitting my clients too. I try to interview for full-time positions but many are in a hiring freeze. I’m positive there will be a good job for me in the near future – in fact I’d say I’d be working full-time if not for the bad economy. So I continue to network, stay engaged, and help out where I can with anyone needing advice. But it’s turning into a race between running out of our savings vs finding adequate income. It’s tough.

    • The computer manufacturer I worked for removed me (marcom mgr) and one of my people (marcom specialist) and created a per-hour position at half the specialists wage to do both her job and mine. I understand the need to cut, but how many times does the no-mkt-materials–>lower sales spiral have to play out before something new is tried?

    • Jenifer Olson

      I’ve been part of the ‘mobility pool’ for several months now, and have actually interviewed for a few lower management positions I would have loved at one point in my career, but now would gladly settle for. And you know what? I didn’t get the jobs. I really wasn’t the best fit — they knew it and so did I. So, what to do?

      The danger is ‘negative inertia,’ a term a friend of mine coined to describe that state of wanting to do something but not doing anything because you don’t know what to do. 🙂 To avoid this all too real mind trap, I set daily mini-goals for myself that will hopefully, eventually get me where I need to be (apply to 3 jobs, walk 3 miles, network with 3 people, read a chapter of a bestseller, explore social media, etc.). Helps me feel like I’m heading in the right direction.

      I also look for ways to help friends in the same situation. I recommend, I refer, I encourage and I listen. I give because it makes me feel like I’m still making a positive contribution. I tend to agree with the guy who wrote The Pluto Files: “In life, and in the universe, it is always best to keep looking up.”

    • The Kid Sister

      I would also like to add my advice for your college student readers: Also take advantage of the career fairs and the career center at your school! This is one thing that I regret now that I’ve graduated from college. I was the student who kept putting things off, thinking I’d have no problem landing a good job after graduation. And believe me, there are many students who think the way I did so this lessens the competition between yourself and other students. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there… The companies at the career fairs are actually looking for fresh faces and are ready to hire you for entry level jobs. So you really have nothing to lose. I was lucky enough to have networked my way into my current job because I worked and interned all throughout college, but some of my friends who did not work or intern have taken months, some even years, only to settle with an insatiable job or no job at all.

    • Thanks Kid Sister! I’ll add these to the post.

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    • Excellent advice, even in non-recession times.

      The recession hasn’t yet hit us that hard, but where I’m from, there’s always the annoying verdict after an interview that “You’re over qualified” for a position.

      So much that it’s a vicious cycle. The job you really want requires 5 years work experience, the job you want to get experience from claims you’re too qualified.

      My biggest advice to a lot of people is to first do whatever you can get your hands on. One you get paid, and two, you get experience. Even jobs that are almost like an apprenticeship (tonnes of work, minimum wage) are good for experience, especially in a related field / industry. Besides, you’d be surprised the things you can learn.

      Be open.

      You’ll land that position you crave with enough patience.

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    • During the last dark days I had to suck it up, dumb down my resume, and get a retail job to keep a roof over my head. It was not what I wanted to do with my life but even so, I made a point of doing the best job I possibly could there.

      I got promoted 2x in the 18 months I worked for the company and when I finally left (to go get that MBA!), I walked away feeling like I’d taken a lemon and turned it into lemonade.

    • Rachel, sorry to hear about that, but glad you’ve made the best out of it.

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    • Wendy

      If you are just hitting the mobility pool, I would suggest volunteering with a nonprofit to 1)explore, 2)explain gaps in employment since it could be a while before you get back into stable employment in your field. 3) to prevent from sinking into to depression &/or anxiety. Also consider you may want to go into business for yourself if you have some margins. I hope this helps.

    • vicki

      My issue is, and it’s one I don’t often see addressed, that I am already in a job I’m overqualified for, making much less money than a position I’d like to apply for that I’m *also* overqualified for. So, I want the other job, because it would pay twice what I’m making now, but I fear my application will be rejected because I’m “overqualified” and I will remain stuck in this low paying position I now have, and really need to move out of.

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    • When I retired from the military a few years ago, and the job I had lined up didn't come through, a lot of my experience was either outdated — I hadn't managed a big project in a few years — or irrelevant to the private sector — not a lot of call for space & missile command & control experience in the Research Triangle area. I went with the “suck it up and apply for less than desirable positions” option, and ended up with two part-time jobs: one a dream, and the other … a good learning experience. I still have the part-time dream job, and have traded the learning experience for a full-time near-dream job, so I consider myself very blessed.

      I don't remember where I heard or read this advice, but I find it to be helpful: as you interact with people — whether in person or on the phone or over the Internet — don't focus so much on what that person can do for you. Instead, think about what you might be able to do for them. It's the difference between coming to someone with hat in hand, and coming to them with a helping hand.

    • 1123

      Hello i am a student and im relii stuck on a question about ” the dangers of over marketing for an event” and i was hoing tha you culd give me some suggestions! 😀 ….

    • 1123

      Hello i am a student and im relii stuck on a question about ” the dangers of over marketing for an event” and i was hoing tha you culd give me some suggestions! 😀 ….

    • jrhgh5hi6hy9iouim
    • hi,

      it really dangerous to bing under or over qualified due to recession because due to it people go in depression.

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