Thursday, April 28, 2011

Over 50? Three Ways to Combat
the 'Overqualified' Label

You're over 50, smart, creative, and with a lot of experience and know-how that exceed anything someone in his or her 20s, 30s or even 40s possesses.

And employers don't want to come near you because they think you're "overqualified" for the job, especially if it's at a level below your last or current position.

Can I get a "Yup!" from anyone who agrees with that? Or has experienced it?

Employers have a well-based fear that they'll hire someone who will be inclined to bolt if a better opportunity comes knocking after a year or two. But that's more likely to happen with someone who's younger and looking to advance in their career. For many workers in their 50s, there isn't a lot of advancing to do before they retire. Rather, they're looking to wind down and eliminate the stress that high-pressure jobs have inflicted on them over the years. They may have paid for their kids' college educations and be close to becoming mortgage free, but they want to be productive and ratchet up their retirement savings.

Employers may not see that. In fact, they may be concerned with three things: Will he cost too much? Will he be happy working with colleagues who are young enough to be his children? Can he deal with change?

If you're over 50, you'll need to be prepared to address these concerns if you're angling for a job you want at a company you want to work for. Here's how:

  • Will you cost too much?  This is a major consideration for employers today. First, research the salary range for the position. (Sites such as and Glassdoor provide helpful data.) If the data show you'd have to take a pay cut, and you're comfortable with it, tell the hiring manager that salary is not your only consideration in accepting a job offer. If you like the job, your would-be colleagues, and the company's culture and direction, emphasize their importance in taking the job.
  • Will you be happy working with younger colleagues?  There's something to be said for working with people your own age, but this presents a learning opportunity--for both sides. If you're not social media-savvy, for example, you can learn from your younger colleagues. At the same time, your experience provides them with an opportunity to learn from you, especially you share the same skill set. So, address how you can serve as an in-house mentor to others.
  • Can you deal with change?  If you've been used to working for companies that stayed the course over many years, or you worked in only one or two roles, your ability to deal with change will be called into question. And, rightly or wrongly, the older you are, the worse the perception will be that you can't deal with change. But today's faster pace of business requires everyone to be flexible and adapt to changes in the marketplace. Be ready to demonstrate how you've dealt with change before. 

Employers that write you off because of your age and what you may command in salary do so at their peril because they're depriving themselves of the experience you bring. Aim for the companies that have the foresight to see how you fit into the role, not the other way around.

What tips do you have for older job seekers who face the "overqualified" issue? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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