Overcoming Overqualified Part Two: A New Grad’s Guide

September 28, 2011 by Careerminds

Jennifer Fry
Careerminds Consultant


Highly experienced job seekers are not the only ones who might be plagued by the dreaded “overqualified” label. Oftentimes, new college graduates, particularly those with higher degrees (i.e.: Master’s degree, Ph. D.) find themselves too educated for the entry-level positions for which they’re applying; but without much real world working experience, they are not qualified for the upper level positions, either. In other words, new graduates can find themselves in a bind when it comes being considered for the right job openings.

That said, there are a few simple tactics these job seekers can use to conquer employers’ fears that their education will negatively impact their commitment or salary expectations in an entry-level position.

  • Don’t lead with your degree on your resume. Higher education often results in desires for a higher salary, or so employers believe; additionally, if you’re not applying for a position directly related to your area of study, which, for many new graduates is not the case, an employer may not know how to translate your degree into something relevant. If you’re afraid your level of education may scare off potential employers, do the translating for them.

  • In conjunction with the first tip, let your skills do the talking, not just your degree. Specify the ways in which your education has prepared you for a position by focusing on tangible skills that match the job’s requirements. This can serve two functions: quelling an employer’s fear that your degree over qualifies you; and/or breaking your degree down into something that an employer can immediately see is relevant.

  • Be clear about why you want the job. Employers want to know that you’ll be committed to the position if it’s offered to you, so let them know why you’re interested. Make good use of your cover letter and interview to express your ability to succeed in the position while also expressing your desire to grow and move forward. In most interview settings, an employer will explicitly ask why you want the job or where you see yourself in five years, and no matter how you go about answer these questions, never give the impression that you expect to be bored or that the position is beneath you.

  • As far as salary goes, do some research on average earnings for people with degrees in certain positions, but make it clear that you are interested in progression with the company and that you don’t necessarily expect a higher salary right off the bat just because of your degree.

  • Attitude is everything. Above all, make sure to sell yourself with a positive attitude and your ability to exhibit the traits an employer values the most: commitment, honesty, trustworthiness, adaptability, accountability and loyalty. Use specific examples to express to an employer how you’ve exhibited these qualities in the past.

A new graduate on the job market for the first time may find him or herself in the strange position of having a great amount of knowledge and skills, but no or little work experience, and employers may have a tough time knowing just what to do with that kind of job seeker. Remember, new employees don’t start at the top, regardless of educational credentials.

Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.



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