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As a 'too qualified' job candidate, should I focus on management or tech support?

I recently moved to Canada after completing 22 years in the army, where I was a warrant officer employed as a system administrator, office manager and finance warrant officer. The problem I have is that no matter what job I apply to, invariably I get told that I am too qualified. Should I concentrate more on management posts or tech support? I have A+, N+, MCSA (taken recently, only to back up military experience) and seven years experience on Unix.

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Alas, these days "too much experience" is a phrase too often heard. I can recommend several strategies, none mutually exclusive:
  1. Keep trying. Sooner or later you will find somebody who understands the benefit of your experience who will offer you a position anyway.

  2. Pension supports lower salary. If you qualify for a pension after 20 years (as is the case with the US Army, for example) you can always mention you are able to work for lower pay than your experience might otherwise warrant because you have another source of income. Of course, this is a tough strategy for both the long haul and the short term, but it's also the case that some job is almost always better than no job at all.

  3. Try leaning on other recently separated service colleagues or look for firms that specialize in former servicepeople for staffing needs. I don't know how the grapevine or placement companies work in Canada in detail, but here "south of the border" other people who've recently left the service and started work in the civilian sector can be great sources of information on jobs, and there are placement firms that specialize specifically in placing former servicepeople in positions (often with some kind of defense component). If you have any security clearances (you don't indicate yea or nay on that topic in your e-mail) this might be a good combination to stress with your technical IT skills, provided you don't mind working in such positions.
As for the management versus technical support issue, I'd let your interests and proclivities guide you in one direction or the other, unless you're simply desperate for work (in which case, "first offered, first taken" might sum up the right approach). With the war in Iraq moving into the reconstruction phase and the economy appearing on an upward trend, your prospects should continue to brighten throughout the rest of the year and into next year. Keep at it, and sooner or later you will find a company that wants you, with a position you can at least tolerate, if not genuinely like.

Good luck!
--Ed--

This was first published in April 2003

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