Caught Between Underqualified and Overqualified

Ricki writes:
I hate my job and have been trying hard to find a new one — without success. Of the jobs that I apply for that are directly in my field I get interviews but not offers. Often I am told they felt I was overqualified or that I would outgrow the position too quickly but the converse is when I apply for jobs at the next level I don’t get interviews.

I have also been looking to transition into a different but related field and of those jobs I apply for I don’t receive interview requests because I have no real experience in the other than my volunteer background.

The Career Doctor responds:
I’m suggesting a two-pronged approach:

  • One for the jobs that employers are telling you that you are overqualified for
  • One for the next-level and out-of-field jobs for which you’re not getting interviews.

First (and this applies to both of the above) the most effective way to get a job is through networking. You should tell everyone you come in contact with (people you know and new acquaintances) what you’re looking for and ask them 1) what advice do you have for me? And 2) Who should I be talking to? Be sure you have a strong social-media presence on LinkedIn Facebook etc. so employers can find you and that they learn great things about you when they do. Do you have your own Web site with your name as domain name? I recommend that. Domain names are cheap and you or a friend should be able to create a site for you that serves as a career portfolio with samples of your work. Do everything you can to beef up your social-media presence but not so you spend time on it at the expense of meeting people face to face.

For the jobs that employers are telling you that you are overqualified for:
Our article on fighting the overqualified label may be helpful.

You might also see if you can propose that they hire you on a one-month trial basis to let you prove that you won’t outgrow the job or get bored and can produce results for the employer. A last-resort risky version of this idea is to offer a “free trial;” offer to work for a short period for no pay or ask if you could take on a trial project for them on a freelance basis.

For the next-level and out-of-field jobs for which you’re not getting interviews:

An underused but highly effective method for getting your foot in the door is informational interviewing. This technique works especially well with career change because it enables you to ask folks in your targeted new field where they see your deficiencies how you could break into the field how you might apply your strengths and experience to the new field. Our tutorial tells you how to set up and conduct informational interviews.

The only drawback to the technique is that it is not quick. It’s not ethical to ask for a job in an informational interview but you may find that interviewees become interested in you and want to take things to the next step. For those that don’t you need to wait a respectable period after the info interview to approach them about a job.


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