I have been on the job market since April and have been unemployed since August. I have sent out a total of 140 applications and have had 14 interviews. I finally this week got an offer for a part-time position without benefits (scaled down from the full-time position that was posted). I accepted it and am looking forward to my 14 hours/week of work, but it still doesn't get me out of the woods financially.
At nearly all of the interviews, I've encountered some skepticism towards why I would want the position for which I've applied rather than something more advanced or higher-paying. I give clear answers that play upon my assets and emphasize that I aim to strengthen my employment experience, but employers just aren't buying it. The more this happens, the more I realize that being overqualified is one of the hidden costs of higher education. I've seriously pigeonholed myself by too much schooling.
I'm finishing up a PhD and am struggling because there doesn't appear to be full-time work out there for me. The jobs exist, definitely, but they're going to people who stopped with a B.A. or M.A. Faculty positions are few and far between--and I'm not quite at the level where it's appropriate for me to apply for faculty spots in my chosen discipline. Interdisciplinarity is a great catchphrase and is lauded as a virtue, but it can make jobsearching mighty hard when interests and training stretch over several related disciplines rather than neatly conforming to a proscribed path.
From what I can surmise, potential employers are testy about hiring applicants whose education stretches beyond that required by the job for three key reasons: flight risk, cost, and fit. The biggest element is probably the fear that we'll cut & run as soon as something better comes along. Some organizations adjust compensation according to degrees earned, so applicants with advanced degrees are placed into more lucrative brackets from the start--if times are lean, it may make more sense to offer the job to someone who will be put into a lower-earning range. Some managers seem to have concerns about how willing highly educated applicants will be to do less stimulating tasks or how amenable they are to being supervised. Of course, cost, fit, and commitment are elements in any hiring decision, but what I've heard and observed in my spate of job searching suggests that these may present particular challenges to candidates with more education than applied experience.
Recognizing and addressing these impediments should be a crucial step in cementing yourself as a quality applicant, at least in theory. In each interview, I've done my best to emphasize the sincerity of my interest and the ways that I've fulfilled my commitments in the past. I've talked about my enthusiasm for the organization and how I feel that the role fits into my career goals in addition to how I could be a strong asset for the program. Yet things still don't really click into place.
Part of the problem is the economy, but I think my background itself is an obstacle. I encountered the same resistance in my jobsearch two years ago and I've heard similar laments from other people with similar career trajectories. The diaries that have cropped up over the past week with tips for jobsearchers have been quite timely. I just signed up for the Kossacks Networking site and I'm hopeful that the resources there will prove useful.
I'm throwing this diary into the mix because I've seen a few Kossacks mull over the idea of going back to school until the economy gets better. On some level it's not a bad tactic. You can defer your existing student loans while enrolled & there's a chance that you could get an assistantship with a modest stipend. You can receive further training that could qualify you for different opportunities. But--and this is the crucial point--you might end up with even narrower job options when you emerge. It's something to consider.
I'm really interested in hearing from people about their own experiences. Have you been told, directly or otherwise, that you're overqualified for a job you really wanted? Have you managed to effectively convince the hiring manager to give you a shot despite that? Do you have experience from the other side of the fence? Have you ever interviewed someone whose education outpaced the requirements of the job? What could he or she have done to be a more compelling applicant? Have you had any negative experiences hiring someone who seemed overeducated? Any feedback is useful, hopefully to others as well as to myself.