Workwrite Resumes

Overqualified: Why take a job when you are overqualified?


There are good reasons to apply for a position for which you are overqualified. Make sure your reason is one of them.


There are three main reasons you would be considering a job that does not take advantage of all of your experience and skills:

  1. You have been unemployed a long time and are willing to accept a position and salary lower than previously so you can be working again.
  2. You have decided to step back from your career to pursue other passions, take care of yourself or another, or as part of your retirement strategy.
  3. You plan to move to a lower-level job as part of a strategy to position yourself for a step up when the time is right.

The decisions that accompany each of these scenarios vary. Here are three examples of clients (in some cases, aggregates of two or more cases) who have navigated the overqualified label successfully. (Names and details have been changed to preserve confidentiality.)

Unemployed and Desperate

“Clarissa” came to me shortly before her company laid off the last of its employees, including her. She was one of the financial officers and had done her level best in the time she was with the company to position them well, but her advice hadn’t been heeded.

She had been an executive for 20 years and had the lifestyle to go with it. She had nightmares about losing her house and family. She felt ready to take almost any position she was offered.

Instead, we tailored her resume to fit positions at the same level or one level down from the one she had held most recently. Even though she feared for her financial life, she was willing to take a little longer to find a job that fit her rather than accepting the first offer.

It took a bit more than six months, and the job wasn’t ideal. The salary was lower than she had hoped, but the company was stable, and the culture fit her very well. There was room for growth, and she felt more comfortable with this opportunity than any other.

Keeping her desperation at bay and waiting out the opportunity paid off for Clarissa.

Retirement Strategy

“Jason” had about 7 years left in his career in facilities administration. His company was completing a reorganization in which he had asked to be laid off so he could relocate to the state where he planned to retire.

He knew he didn’t want to keep up the breakneck pace he had enjoyed for 20+ years, but he didn’t have a clear picture of how the next position would work into his overall plan.

Through coaching, he decided to keep doing what he had been doing, except on a smaller scale. Instead of overseeing multiple, geographically diverse facilities, he would apply for single-facility management jobs.

Once clear on the type of job he was targeting, we revised his resume to fit that type of job, omitting some of the more ambitious start-ups and management accomplishments in favor of his single-facility achievements.

Jason was able to choose between two offers and took the one closest to home.

Family Crisis

“Carla” had been wildly successful in retail management and loved her job and company. She admitted she probably would have stayed forever if her family hadn’t needed her 300 miles away.

To make everything work, she accepted a job with a retail chain that needed her help badly. The pay was small, and so were the challenges, but for several years, the job allowed her the proximity she needed to take care of her family.

Once the crisis was over, Carla applied for and landed a position with a more prestigious firm and felt like her career was back on track.

The commonalities in these three situations included:

  1. Being clear on what they wanted.
  2. Being willing to consider a strategy that took them into the overqualified category.
  3. Making and following a plan.
  4. Being patient enough to recognize and leverage the right opportunity.

In the coming weeks, we will consider how to choose and apply for a position for which you are overqualified.

If you’re thinking a step down is a way to reach your next goal and need to clarify your strategy, contact me to talk about career coaching to help you with your decision.


Overqualified: Know your value

Overqualified: Strategies for your career documents and interview

Avoid the overqualified designation in your job search (podcast)


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