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Ask Brian- Advice For an Overqualified Job Candidate

November 7th, 2007 · 2 Comments

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Reader Jason from West Texas writes:

“If I’m overqualified for the job, should I leave things out of my resume so I don’t seem so overqualified? The situation is this, I’ve been out of college for a year and a half now. I have a degree in international relations and a degree in Japanese. I know I should be in a bigger city to pursue my career path, but I haven’t gotten there yet. And now the money is running out. I’ve been trying to apply for several jobs but I think they look at my resume, see my degrees and think I’m joking or something. There’s not a lot around here except construction and ranching. I feel stuck. I’ll take anything. It’s either this or move back with the folks.

Brian answers after the break…

Brian sayz:

I’m glad to see you’re willing to take whatever job you can get. That’s something a lot of younger people aren’t willing to do today… take “any job” during the early years, no matter how menial, in order to get ahead.

Because the truth is this: you’re not stuck. You’re not giving up or doing something below your talents if you take a construction job. You’re just doing what you need to do for now. If this is about making money to make your eventual move, then this is just as much a step forward as taking an unpaid internship within your career field.

I can see there probably isn’t much in the way of international relations work in West Texas, so take whatever job you can get. I don’t think you’re being turned down because you have an impressive looking degree. I mean, if it’s just manual labor or whatever, then most employers will take any able-bodied person they can get. I’m just speculating here: Are you able bodied? If I saw you on the street, would I look at you and say you were capable of a hard day’s work? Or would I say you looked a bit soft? If you’ve spent the last year or two living the extended college/party life, then maybe you’re looking like someone who’s not used to physical labor. Could you stand to loose 10-20 pounds? Maybe if you worked on that, you could look more like someone who capable of hard work. Or it could be that you look like you have no experience… perhaps a rancher is afraid to hire you if you look like you can’t tell the difference between a horse and a cow.

I think the answer is to ADD things to your resume, not take things out. Do you have any experience with this kind of manual labor? If so, put that back in and highlight it. Adding a job or experience or two that shows you’re familiar with blue collar work might be the ticket. Maybe you just need to show that in spite of your impressive educational credentials, you’re not a stranger to an honest day’s work.

In short, my answer would be to keep all the educational stuff in. It’s a plus. It shows you have a brain. It shows you have initiative. It shows you can learn. Maybe you just need to convince the employer you’re WILLING to learn if they’re profiling you as someone who’s a stranger to physical labor.

I once had a client like you who found himself a couple of years out of school and running out of money. I think he had a philosophy degree. He ended up getting a job in a warehouse for a national logistics company. He started literally at the bottom rung, slinging boxes. The client was told by the employer that the reason he was hired was because he had a college degree. He was virtually the only one at that location who had been to college. The employer told him that he saw “management potential” in him someday, and that was rare for the employer to find in his job pool. So, basically, the kid was hired because of the degrees told the employer that this particular guy was someone who might have a future beyond manual labor. I bet the client ended up working there only for a short time before moving on to other things, but the point is, the degrees didn’t hurt him, even for this blue collar job.

What do you say, readers? Any tips for Jason? Leave your advice in the comments.

Related posts:

  1. Ask Brian- Taking A Step “Backward” And How To Address This In My Resume
  2. Ask Brian- Politics on My Resume

Tags: Ask Brian · Career Change · Job Search · Resumes

  • Spencer Washington


    I’m also a resident of West Texas, and I can totally understand your comment about the lack of career opportunities. It seems particularly common out here that it’s not always what you know — it’s more about who you know. I’m making the efforts to increase my networking circle, but I have yet to see any promising results.


  • Fruicle

    Easy to find helpful information.
    All the best!