Overqualified? “Dumb Down” The Resume?


It’s interesting to consider some people in their 20’s decide to get a doctorate or Masters, then in their 40’s feel overqualified and debate leaving out the very education they worked hard to get. Not to mention of course it took more than just work, it took an investment of their money and time.

Times change though don’t they? After getting a degree from a university, some decide that more schooling is desired and for a number of reasons. Could be they were undecided on a career, weren’t ready at that time to work for the next 35 or more years, or they loved learning so much they stayed in that mindset to increase their intelligence in a certain field. Whatever the reason, they emerged with that doctorate, masters or perhaps a second or third degree, ready to put all that education to good use and secure a well-paying, stimulating job in their field.

I believe that anything you work hard to obtain and spend years working on is definitely something to take pride in. When that moment comes where you find yourself in a black gown being handed that certificate and you’ve earned the right to add some letters after your name, why wouldn’t you feel pride at your accomplishment? We encourage others to take pride in what they do, so of course this should extend to those with additional education. They have every right to be happy and proud.

As often is the case, many of these graduates do put their learning to use in employment related to their fields of study. Why it’s those very doctorates and masters that qualify them over you and I for positions where the employer’s concerned have elected to demand that advanced learning as a prerequisite of their hiring criteria as is their right.

However, not every graduate with hopes and aspirations of launching their careers successfully finds employment. No different from any other group of people, you’ll find people with their masters or doctorates working in some positions where those are not needed. People do change of course. What seemed like a great plan to someone in their early 20’s might not appeal the same way to someone in their 30’s or 40’s. So be it. Hence you might have someone who by choice pursues work in a job that doesn’t call for that advanced academia. So too are the people who while they’d love to put that education to good use, can’t find employment but need to work.

So the question I often get asked by people who have grown frustrated with their lack of employment success, is whether to include all their higher education on their resumes. In other words, they wonder if they should, “dumb down” their résumé. So let me put things another way. Would you, ‘dumb down’ yourself to attract the attention of a person you wanted to have a long and meaningful relationship with? Wouldn’t you have to continue to feign or pretend you were this person you’re not? Doesn’t that sound very deceitful? Where’s your integrity?

Now they never mean to be rude or disrespectful. They do not ever as far as I know mean it as a put-down of those without their same level of education. They really just use that term, “dumb down” as a universally used term to leaving out higher education or in other cases, some senior level positions when they are looking at mid or entry-level positions for whatever reason.

I have to tell you I’m not in favour of omitting one’s hard-earned education. I don’t think that a person should ever feel they have to hide or apologize for what they worked hard to get. So in almost all cases, I don’t practice or advise concealing education. After all, when you omit such things, you might feel pressure later on to constantly remind yourself who among your co-workers you’ve told and not told about your education. Should you want to apply for a promotion at work, some employer’s actually take a dim view of an employee who conveniently left out their masters on their resume when they got hired 7 years ago. Just saying.

Now with respect to experience, I am discriminating. Suppose in a past job you trained others and led some projects even though your title didn’t suggest you were in management. If the job you are going for is an entry-level one where you’ll be the one getting trained and there’s no hint you’ll be training others, from all the things you could choose to share, I’d not include your experience training others. Why? That experience you had just doesn’t fit with the job you’re applying to.

Communicating to an employer via a cover letter and later in an interview that while you’ve got more education; you have your eyes open fully to what the job entails you are applying to and that you’ve got a full appreciation for what it takes to be successful are keys. In other words, you’re not better than others with less education. Just as you’ve got higher education, they’ve got years of experience you can draw on and learn from; you can benefit each other. That you’ll stick around and give a return on their investment in you goes without saying.

 

One thought on “Overqualified? “Dumb Down” The Resume?

  1. Once again a good article-short and sweet. However one thing glaringly absent is the fact that younger (and inexperienced) people are often the ones who are the gatekeepers and screeners of resumes. This causes several problems for ‘overqualified’ applicants. First the screener has the power or discretion to discard a resume with ‘too much’ education and thus it never makes it to the very hiring manager who may. in fact, appreciate a candidate with the education and ambition to ‘go for it’. Often it is they themselves who are overeducated for their position but lack the requisite life and other experience and thus feel threatened by an applicant who may be coming with both higher ed and experience. I have personally experienced this. In fact I went back to grad studies later in life just to be able to compete with some of these ‘yahoos’ who I know may be very good at heart but often cause havoc for experienced but ‘overqualified’ job hunters.

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