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Overqualified? Turn it into an Advantage

It's an oft-read or oft-heard story over the past two years: A very experienced, highly skilled person—probably over 50 years old—has worked their way up to a mid- or high-level job, then loses it because of the recession. The person struggles for months, maybe more than a year, to find another suitable job while trying to stay positive about career and life.

Frustrated—and maybe financially desperate—the person aims for lower-level jobs, with lower salaries, just to earn a paycheck and a confidence boost. But sometimes, the rejection message is loud and clear: YOU'RE OVERQUALIFIED!

The stories are depressing. If you've lived through something like it or are living through it now, your stomach might be doing somersaults as you read this. (Sorry!)

If the "overqualified" tag applies to you, here are three "selling statements" you should consider using in a cover letter or interview to emphasize the potential advantages an employer might gain from an overqualified candidate like you:

"I don't need a lot of time to get up to speed on work procedures and policies."

This speaks right to employers' concerns about ramping up new employees, since a long learning curve can be a drag on productivity. But if they hire someone who has done the same or similar work before, they can expect greater results in less time.

"I can share my expertise with colleagues who don't have as much experience."

A company or division with a relatively younger staff can benefit from the older person's experience and wisdom. This is especially true at young startup firms that are aiming to grow within a few years. Someone who has "been there, done that" can be a mentor to those who haven't, and help them grow with the company.

"I know how to work efficiently and get things done."

That's the kind of stuff that can come with experience and a strong work ethic. Older workers probably began their careers in traditional businesses with more hierarchy and structure, which often demanded stronger organizational skills. Seeing an older colleague get things done quickly might inspire younger team members to find ways to work more efficiently.

Some employers fear that an older, more experienced worker would expect the lofty salary they once had, rather than the lower salary range budgeted for the position. That may be true. But as we emerge from a crippling recession, that may become less of an obstacle. Long-term unemployment, if nothing else, forces us to get by on much less income than we'd previously enjoyed. If being overqualified is something that could limit your chances of getting hired, I strongly suggest you consider how much of a pay cut you're willing to accept, and balance that with your expenses. You may be willing to accept a smaller paycheck if you can hook on with a company that can offer you the security of keeping you employed for a long while.

Are your job opportunities limited because you may be "overqualified?" Tell us about your experiences.

RELATED LINKS

What Employers Really Mean by 'You're Overqualified'
Has the Recession Shattered Your Sense of Job Security?
Should You 'Dumb Down' Your Resume to Get a New Job?

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