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Can you be too qualified and unemployable?

(18 Posts)
Yorkie12 Mon 03-Dec-12 23:42:30

I'm new to posting on Mumsnet, but came looking for some answers and support as I've recently resigned from my part-time, well paid senior management job. Yes, I must be mad! Although it was a part-time role, I was so worried about retaining my job that I over-compensated and have been working full time hours for several years by working most evenings and often trying to fit work in work on my days off now the DCs are both in school. Of course, I still only got paid for a part time role. I've found the pressure of the job and trying to be a good mum increasingly too much and the last straw came last month when I finished a project with very tight deadlines at 3.30 am and had to be up again at 6 am when my youngest wakes. I've found myself increasingly unhappy, thinking about work ALL the time and being very short tempered with the DCs and DH. So, I decided then to give it all up, spend more time with the family, but try and find a part time role that is 9-5 and with less stress.

I am very organised, have a couple of degrees and 20 years work experience, but after speaking to several local recruitment agencies I am completely downhearted. I've explained I am happy to take a backwards step due to my family, but I've basically been told that I am too qualified to do anything other than my current job. I've thought about becoming a PA or doing some general office temping, but they are not interested in even seeing my CV. I can't believe I am in danger of being unemployed because I am too experienced and too well qualified. Is this possible?

Has anyone else come across this? The agencies seem to hold a lot of power and getting past them is really difficult.

janey68 Tue 04-Dec-12 06:44:31

No, I think this is a bit of a myth that people can be 'over qualified'. Maybe in a few cases people generally see it as a barrier, but to be honest nowadays you're highly likely to come across well qualified people stacking shelves etc, and I personally know of people with degrees who are classroom assistants, lunch supervisors or doing office temp work.

It sounds like you were doing way too much and getting way too stressed in a role which was part time, and therein lies the real issue, rather than how many paper qailifications you have. If you are choosing to work part time then you should be doing it because it suits you at that particular moment of life, and not over compensating as you were by ending up working on all your days off. That's a sure way to end up burning out and fed up because you're not getting any of the advantages of full time

Have you thought of giving the agencies a miss and going directly to employers? Agencies are more concerned about getting as many people as possible into jobs, hence they may seem reluctant to encourage you towards jobs which less qualified people could do, but an employer won't be bothered at all- they simply want the best person for the job

GrendelsMum Tue 04-Dec-12 11:09:19

I think that 'too qualified' can be a polite way of saying 'doesn't have the experience to do the job that we are currently offering'. It's a bit like being a head chef and applying to be a waiter - you've worked in a related role but you haven't actually worked in that role, and other people have.

For example, if you're thinking of working as a PA, do you have recent experience of the specific tasks that you might be needed to do? It sounds like you might have a lot of experience in management, but that won't necessarily help you organise an event, book travel or take minutes of a meeting.

FadBook Tue 04-Dec-12 14:45:38

I would go direct to employers rather than agencies. Or find an agency that specialises in management roles (or your sector).

It sounds daft, but keep looking every day. Use jobcentreplus website (a lot of Companies now use this facility to advertise as it is free), and the Guardian jobs website too. Sign up for the email alerts that match your job preferences and areas. New jobs sometimes go up for 3 days and then are taken off because of the response.

Bear in mind that some jobs may be advertised as full time for the search engine facility, but on closer look, may be able to accommodate part time.

I landed the job I'm in now (part time, working from home as a HR Manager) via the job centre and it was a one line advert for a very small Company (who would no way have paid £7K agency fees to get the person through an agency). I just happened to be in the right place and the right time whilst searching.

I too was looking at taking a bit of a 'break' whilst dd is young (16 months) and happy to take a back step from HR Manager to PA / Office Manager, but landed this role.

Good luck in your search

TheFarSide Tue 04-Dec-12 14:54:48

I agree with Grendelsmum that you might not match the specific job criteria, even if you are very qualified.

When I was job hunting I had three CVs - one for my existing profession, one for my desired profession, and one for admin work, each emphasising a different set of skills and experience.

FadBook Tue 04-Dec-12 14:57:05

Definitely TheFarSide - having different CV's or altering one to suit the job you are applying for is a must.

iseenodust Tue 04-Dec-12 15:00:51

Disagree that it's a myth based on sample of my friends smile. You can be a lunchtime supervisor or classroom assistant because these are jobs that are hard to fill because the pay is so poor (and with lunchtime supervisor it's 1.5hrs but screws up the whole day).

I think the real problem lies in getting across that you would be committed to a part-time lesser paid role, people seem to think you will move on. Conversely there is also a perception that you may not 'go the extra mile' as you don't want to climb the corporate ladder because you want a job not to forge a career. Unspoken prejudices ...

DevaDiva Wed 05-Dec-12 08:52:23

Agree go direct to employers, I've found agencies a waste of time whereas I've secured interviews for 3/4 posts where I applied directly to the employer and I was never really going to be Marketing Director for British Cycling grin

The problem is that these days the vast majority of vacancies seem to be handled by agencies. I would suggest identifying 1/2 agencies that deal with your line of work/have the type of positions you're looking for and build a relationship with them.

Then and this is the bit I'm stalling on you need to identify companies that you would like to work for and can add value to and send them a speculative letter and CV. Send this to the head of the department you would want to work in or the MD, don't send it to HR as you'll prob just get a standard thanks but no thanks. You'll need to follow up with an email, or a phone call works best apparently but I'm a bit of a scaredy cat to see if you can arrange a meeting.

Oh and don't forget to network IRL and online with LinkedIn. I recently heard from a job search consultant that 70% of jobs are in the closed job market, i.e never get advertised, I knew it was a lot but that scared the pants off me grin so make sure everyone you know, knows what you do and that you're looking for work.

Ahh simples hope I like the company I'm seeing tomorrow this job searching is knackering good luck!

Crinkle77 Wed 05-Dec-12 15:51:24

I had a similar experience when finished university. I struggled to get a job as I had good qualifications but no experience. The jobs I had done to support myself throughout university had been in menial roles and employers did not value the experience they gave me such as customer service, communication skills etc... I was prepared to start at the bottom and work my way up but employers were not interested because they thought that I would just move on in a few months

flowerytaleofNewYork Wed 05-Dec-12 16:09:36

I disagree with those who think it's a myth. To me it makes perfect sense, that if you have several candidates for a PA job, most of which have experience in a similar role, and one of which has recent experience as a senior manager, you'd think twice before taking on the senior manager person.

Employers would be worried about; lack of commitment, boredom, frustration, leaving the instant something better comes up, applying for internal more senior vacancies once a foot is in the door, looking down on manager/supervisor as used to be more senior than them, not knowing their 'place', feeling job is beneath them, I could go on.

All those things are not to say you won't get something, but you face an uphill struggle because of those factors. You may be confident none of them will apply to you, but a) some of them might once you get there, I've seen it happen, and b) when an employer has a raft of cvs without that mountain to climb, you are not going to get a chance to convince them.

There's also the fact as mentioned that just because you have been more senior, doesn't mean you have the up to date experience and skills you would be using in the job, as someone who is already in a similar job would.

I agree that going direct to employers is a good idea, plus speculative applications, networking etc.

Is an inbetween role possible, so it's not quite so much of a jump down?

Pendeen Wed 05-Dec-12 19:33:31

To me it all depends on the job for which you actually apply.

An extreme example may be that a lawyer might apply for a clerk's position, be be considered to be "over qualified" in general academic and career terms yet is actually almost useless i.e the real reason is no experience in the duties of that particular job.

I agree that avoiding agencies if at all possible is the best way to proceed.

GrendelsMum Wed 05-Dec-12 19:38:53

Or there's the embarassment factor on the part of the interviewers - I remember sitting with some colleagues absolutely squirming about interviewing a senior civil servant with huge expertise in our field for a job that basically consisted of filing and making tea for meetings. We felt that we couldn't not interview her, but thought she must have got the wrong end of the stick regarding what the role consisted of.

Thank God she got another job before the interviews.

scurryfunge Wed 05-Dec-12 19:39:43

Agree with getting signed up to LinkedIn-DH was recently offered 3 unadvertised jobs via the network contacts, none of which were advertised.

baublesandbaileys Wed 05-Dec-12 19:42:11

I worked for a supermarket which gave "over qualified" rejections to some graduates

I'd say about 70% of the people they DID hire to stack shelves were at the very least graduates with many having pretty impressive career histories too and masters as well

"overqualified" is IMO code for "I can't be arsed to give you proper constructive feedback about your interview!"

Rwep Wed 05-Dec-12 20:07:21

I was in exactly the same position as you - p-t job that was taking full time energy and some. Just couldn't do it anymore, resigned and took some time out to think about what comes next. Very well qualified with an impressive CV.

I actually got the first job I applied for. It's a massive step backwards and I am over qualified, but it suits me just fine and I'm enjoying it. My new employers are getting way more than they're paying for, but much less than my old ones expected.

They did phone me before interview, to make sure I'd understood the salary properly and I had excellent answers prepared for "that" question. They were concerned I'd be off as soon as something more "suitable" came up, but I was able to satisfy them at interview. I also put on the application form about how I was taking a step back to enable me to be more active in the community etc i.e. it was a conscious choice, rather than I need a job, any job will do.

I think the danger is where you will be better qualified or "cleverer" than your new boss - that will frighten worry some people, but you wouldn't want to work for someone that unsure of their own ability anyway.

baublesandbaileys Wed 05-Dec-12 20:21:28

I also currently work about 3 rungs down the ladder from what I used to do (by choice) so am very over qualified

I was asked in interview how I'd feel about not being able to just step in and take over and do things that were part of my old job, and I answered that well and got the job

it is something I am directly over qualified for IYKWIM as I did a job that was above mine in my current field

much happier though

Yorkie12 Wed 05-Dec-12 23:27:01

Thank you for all your replies. I do take the point that having qualifications doesn't mean being qualified for the role. Having a range of CVs is also a great idea. I think I've just expected companies to work out my transferable skill themselves.
Thanks for the tip FadBook- I'm going to look at the site.

Rwep, could you possibly share your answers regarding the salary question? I'm also going to steer clear of agencies- they do nothing for my self esteem, which is on the floor at the moment. Thanks everyone. This has really helped. I need to panic less and plan more smile.

Rwep Thu 06-Dec-12 19:02:07

Hi Yorkie. I surprised myself with just how fluently I dealt with the whole issue, it was actually quite easy, as I meant every word, even though the sentiment was probably a bit cheesy.

I basically focused on how I needed to free up time to be active in the community, do charity work etc. How I'd been there and done that as far as the big career was concerned and it was not time to start a new chapter, make the most of my family while DC were still young. How I'd earned a good salary, but I was now at a time in my life where that wasn't the be all and end all. Without saying so directly, I let them believe that I was set up so money wasn't that important.

It helped that it was a community based job, I think for some roles they might be concerned about an applicant having too many ambitions outside the job.

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