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Overqualified and Under Appreciated

Posted by Elaine Varelas  August 31, 2011 10:00 AM

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Q. I have been unemployed since last September. I earned an MBA last January, and I have student loans and I can't find a job to save my life. Each day I apply on company's websites, and send out resumes. I have had a few interviews, but I get push back on the compensation. The hiring company thinks that now that I have an MBA I will want more money than they are offering. "Are you sure you want to work for this much?". I assure them I want the job, yet they select someone else and pay them who knows what. What should I do?

A. Congratulations on your MBA! This will serve you well in the long run though it may seem like an obstacle right now. Over the life of a persons' career, having an advanced degree inevitably adds to their total earnings.

Review the plan you had when you decided to pursue the MBA. What were you hoping to accomplish in the short term and long term with the skills you were developing, and the knowledge you would have? See if this target is the same now that you have been laid off and are looking for a new job. The first step in any effective job search is identifying the right target. Part of identifying that target is knowing what the pay rate is for specific roles. It is also important to note what kind of compensation structure companies have based on their culture, and whether they hire experienced people, new graduates, or some combination.

There are many ways for you to access the information which will make you a more successful candidate. Your college or university career office should be very willing to help you as a new MBA graduate. These targets may be different from your pre-MBA role. Working with a career consultant, you can identify target companies, network with alumni who work at those firms, and get specific information about the kinds of compensation structures or pay rates for people with your skill set. Most of these offices have research about the successful placement of their graduates, and their current earnings.

The career office can also help you with a full plan for an effective search. Applying for jobs via websites is one method of looking for a job, but it has one of the lowest returns on investment of all job search activity. The approach with the next lowest return is sending out cold resumes. You have been lucky to get interviews if these have been the only methods you have been using.

Put together a comprehensive plan to network. Meet with people who you used to work with, and other MBA students or graduates of your program. Let them know about your target role, the kind of companies you are interested in working for, and your target compensation. Find out if you are in the right compensation range. If not, find out why not. Hiring managers want to make sure you have a realistic number in mind. Too high doesn't get you considered, and too low suggests there is a hidden problem.


You may be applying for jobs which don't require an MBA, or necessarily benefit from the person in the role having that level of skill. If so, review your targets. Hiring managers are reluctant to offer "overqualified" persons the role for fear they will leave as soon as they can find a higher paying job. If you identify as a "new MBA grad", hiring managers will relate your compensation to your previous earnings, and be more willing to consider you for jobs that might seem lower paying for an individual with an MBA. You also need to find other reason to communicate why you are willing to take what seems like not enough money. Some people are willing to take less compensation because they are learning a new industry, or working for a non- profit organization, and are dedicated to the mission. Hiring managers can understand these reasons and are more willing to take risks on people who had been earning more, or look like they are capable of finding a job at a higher salary.

The good news is there are many ways to make your job search more effective, and you have marketable experience and a new degree.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.

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