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How do I battle the 'over-qualified' label in this market?

I'm 42 years old and live in Minnesota. I have been in IT for almost 10 years. However, last June I was laid off and have not been able to find a job since. I completed Network+ and A+ last fall and have taken the courses for MCSA, and I am currently studying to take the first test. I am extremely frustrated and almost ready to hang up IT.

I was a computer technician for both Mac and PCs and also did network administration. I want to get into the networking end and work into administration. I was an IT manager before the position was eliminated. I have been on about five interviews and landed nothing.

In some cases I've been told I'm overqualified. I was making a little over $50,000, but I am willing to take something as low as $30,000 -- even an entry-level position. Unfortunately, I always seem to get passed over for someone with less experience. I want to get back to work and just can't seem to get anywhere. I'm starting to lose confidence in my work. I continue playing around at home. I have a computer with XP, another with Windows 2000 and one more with Win2k server. My resume is excellent but I've even considered changing it to look like I have less experience. Do you have any advice?

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My most basic advice is "don't give up." Perhaps you're communicating some disappointment or anger in your interviews that's getting in your way during that process (entirely understandably, I hasten to add). I'd urge you to set up some mock interviews with friends or colleagues (preferably with hiring managers who can really give you an honest evaluation of how you're coming across during the process) to see if you may inadvertently be hurting your own chances during the interview process.

I'd also urge you to restructure your cover letter and resume to stress your interest in moving into a new technical area, and your understanding and willingness that you must drop to entry-level pay and positions to make this change. Certainly, a company that can hire a person who used to make $50,000 a year for $30,000 might wonder how long they could keep such a person; your job is to convince them that you've got good reasons for making this change, and that you're willing to work your way back up the ladder to get there.

You might even consider offering a commitment to an employment contract that obligates you to stay for at least one or two years (whatever you're comfortable with) as further proof of your interest and sincerity. If you have access to placement or HR professionals to whom you can turn for advice, go over these ideas with them and use it to formulate a strategy to keep trying.

I close by repeating my basic advice: "Don't give up!"

Good luck,
--Ed--

This was first published in March 2003

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