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is anyone finding themselves surprisingly "overqualified" in their early 40s?

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zazen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 01:57 PM
Original message
is anyone finding themselves surprisingly "overqualified" in their early 40s?
Edited on Fri Oct-17-08 01:59 PM by zazen
I was considered a hot commodity in my line of work for at least 12 years, raising big bucks for universities. In 2000, while pregnant and with a newborn and still working, I turned away over 100K in business (I just work as a consultant.) I've raised $50 mill and was taking calls from chancellors, presidents of major institutions, etc. Then I got breast cancer and had complications that kept me barely working for three years. Now, the work is trickling in, and every time I approach folks with whom I would have thought I had some currency (I used to be at the top of the list of people to call), even about a permanent position, I either get passed off to secretaries or told I'm overqualified.

Not that it should matter, but I look 35, which makes the ageism weirder. I know I'm an uppity bitch and I try to keep my political opinions under cover, but what the hell is going on? I always thought I'd be able to get work again, and now I'm terrified that I won't even be able to get work at Barnes & Noble. Because I'm not a tenured track person I can't run the research admin departments for these research deans (though that's the job I do for them), but people act like I'm an ex-dean who'd never take or stay in a "lower position." I'm ONLY 42!!! Or do they think cancer will recur? Most everyone at the university knew I was sick (word got around). Would people avoid you for that?

I don't think ageism is right at any age and know the horror stories from my much older friends, but I guess I thought I had a few years left in me, and what scares me is that I have school-aged children (and am divorced.) I've got to take care of them and get them into college. If I'd have known I'd have all of these consequences, I would have foregone the cancer treatment and taken my chances.

I hate to whine. I know others are in far worse situations, and I've downsized us into a lifestyle that's affordable for the time being. But because I had my own Schedule C business I can't collect unemployment, nor did I have workers comp or whatever for losing all that time to the cancer and the complications.

Are other "professionals" around my age suddenly finding themselves maddeningly unemployable?

And please don't flame me because I don't live in poverty.
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The Wielding Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:02 PM
Response to Original message
1. The better paying job for which you are perfectly qualified are
not as plentiful. Once you get some more connections you will find something. Keep networking and push for a job in your field even though they say you are overqualified tell them you will do what they need very well.
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midnight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:03 PM
Response to Original message
2. This is just a guess, but my hunch is that you have been blacklisted.
Something more to do with your voting record than anything else. I would like to what others think about this theory. I'm glad that your able to get back to work after dealing with such a serious illiness. Hang in there.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:05 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Maybe for health reasons but not for politics.
Not yet, anyway.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:05 PM
Response to Original message
3. The corporate out to pasture age used to be 55
and it caught up with my dad after he'd won top sales awards in a very large corporation three years running. It just means "Oh, well, we're not going to promote him to upper management because there isn't a vacancy and he's earning enough money that some green kid with poor sales will actually earn us more, so cut him loose."

Your main problem was that you laid out of full time work for three years, you cancer slacker. Yes, it's unfair. Yes, there should be laws protecting older workers but don't forget, that's what unions were for, back when we had them. Now the corporate expiration date is getting younger and younger, especially for women. You are not overqualified. You are at the top of your game. However, they'd rather hire some fresh faced twentysomething who's eager to learn and pay him or her peanuts.

It could have been worse. Some engineers are finding their expiration date is in their mid 30s.

This is one reason this country needs a major change in how business is conducted.

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aaronbav Donating Member (148 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 03:48 PM
Response to Reply #3
12. I'm in the architecture profession, and at 48 I am now
Edited on Fri Oct-17-08 03:56 PM by aaronbav
unable to find work. I was laid off this past January. I have NEVER, EVER been out of work for any amount of time, unless it was by choice (traveling in foreign countries)!

I have a degree and lots of experience, but just can't find ANYTHING, and I haven't been limiting my search to strictly Architecture. I am also experienced at building and maintaining Lan's and Wan's, but still can't find anything!
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funflower Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-27-08 02:08 AM
Response to Reply #12
28. I'd expect architecture has been hit really had by the downturn in construction.
Edited on Mon Oct-27-08 02:09 AM by funflower
Things will come back eventually, but it's hard to know how long it will take or how to make ends meet in the meantime.

One of the big costs of Reaganomics is that people need a really good job to make it - especially if you're supporting a family. If you lose your relatively high-paying job, you quickly find that it's very hard to make it in a lower paying field. When architects and university administrators are having a tough time making ends meet, you know our economic system is out of whack.
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Donnachaidh Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:08 PM
Response to Original message
5. it's not only your age, it's your health status
It's happening more and more in this country. Businesses don't want to pay the extra premiums that (potentially) would have to be paid for someone with a pre-existing condition.
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izquierdista Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:11 PM
Response to Original message
6. You're too expensive
It's not exactly your age, employers just don't want to pay what you are worth. They can get two 20somethings for the same price and if times get tough, they can lay one of them off.

I speak from experience. In the same month that I received a salary review that pushed me over 6 figures, the company had a downsizing and decided that I could be replaced by someone 4 salary grades lower. At least I got one paycheck at the higher level before I cleaned out my desk.

And no, you can't negotiate salary with people who already have a view of you as overpriced. The only way to do it is to go in as a consultant on an hourly rate that they can drop at a moment's notice. If they can see hiring you as a way to get experience without having to pay for the overhead and benefits, well then, maybe you have a chance.
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zazen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:41 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. I hope you're back in another position--what an awful story
I heard nasty stories about all the layoffs during the dot.bomb. Half of my daughters' classmates in her RTP-adjacent school had parents who got laid off. Nortel was SO GROSS that, with a husband and 8-mos pregnant wife working in the same unit, they laid off THE HUSBAND, knowing that the wife would probably have to quit from sheer exhaustion after her meagre maternity leave.

Really, I want to learn a trade besides writing and/or project design. It's all vapor.

I hear there's a shortage of licensed plumbers. ; - )
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monmouth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:14 PM
Response to Original message
7. First, I hope you are now enjoying good health, secondly, I
Edited on Fri Oct-17-08 02:15 PM by monmouth
have good friends from my days of working who were "downsized" and are out of work. These are professionals with great resumes like your own, and they cannot find work. I'm responding because I loved your comment about Barnes&Noble. One of my friends who is used to making high echelon salary range is currently working in the local B&N. It was all she could find, she's 45, very attractive and clothes to die for. The usually heavy employment ad pages in our local paper have dwindled down to a precious few, most of which are ads for the health industry and restaurant help. I kid you not. My other friend with similar background did not find work for six months and took a huge salary cut. Unfortunately this is a sign of the times. These friends do have working spouses but my friends made the higher salaries. I wish you luck, hang onto your patience...
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zazen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:25 PM
Response to Original message
8. thanks for feedback--it's just that state univs cover all of your pre-existing conditions
Edited on Fri Oct-17-08 02:30 PM by zazen
so I thought the illnesses were a non-issue. But yes--the combination of too much experience so that the younger folks think you're after their job, plus working for yourself, plus their fear you'll leave due to more illness--I guess that would all combine to make it tough.

I've generally scrubbed most of my named references to radical online postings and petitions that would come up on a google search, but maybe I should recheck that. : - )

I did wonder if others were experiencing this, though. I would think it would particularly plague the IT industries, where youth is associated with more skill and labor (at half the cost).
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zazen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 02:36 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. actually, I do have hurt feelings--I thought that my contributions to the univ meant something
I developed several successful programs from scratch. I know universities are brutal to faculty, but I thought somehow because I was perceived to be a rainmaker I was protected from that. But seeing these stories about people who believed they were valued laid off so brutally. . . . thank you. I didn't realize that this is what I've been feeling. I've earned a PhD several times over for the original projects I've ghostwritten for faculty, and now I'm being tossed out like trash. Or rather, there's no institutional memory and they've insourced what I used to do so well that they decided they needed an entire unit to do it more systematically. And I wasn't around to claim directorship of the effort (not that I wanted it at the time.)

I guess I _was_ tossed . . . just by degrees over a period of months. Thanks. That's clarifying.
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Alpharetta Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 05:05 PM
Response to Reply #9
17. Aim higher in their organization
They might not be willing to hire you again, maybe for some of the reasons you suspect.

But if you keep the pressure on them regarding cost/return, they might come back and pay for your services when they can no longer hide to their superiors that you are cost effective.

They'll have cutbacks at some point and reconsider you. Don't give up.
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juno jones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
11. It even happens in the 'service' sector
I'm 44, I've performed every aspect of professional kitchenwork from dishwasher to head chef and I'm having some problem finding a gig right now. Almost everybody who interviews me, tells me that they can't pay me what I'm worth and wouldn't I be happier in some other facet of the buisness?

I sympathise, it's happening all over.
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abelenkpe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-17-08 04:13 PM
Response to Original message
13. I believe it is happening everywhere
I have several friends in similar situations minus the health issues and worry that I could find myself there within the year as well since the company I work for doesn't currently have any projects in past summer 2009. I am 41 and know that those younger are paid less and without children cost the company less as they require less health insurance. Add increasing unemployment and a baby boomer generation that will not be able to retire as their savings are rapidly disappearing and quite honestly the future looks grim. I hope you are able to find a good job soon and that everyone is able to continue working and providing for their families during this downturn. Good luck!

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leftofthedial Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 01:28 AM
Response to Original message
14. I was hot shit until I hit 45.
Then, despite hugely overachieving performance, I got laid off and couldn't even get an interview after that.

Now I'm "overqualified" for everything it seems.
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TNDemo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 08:24 AM
Response to Original message
15. I was on the market two years ago at 50
and it was incredibly tough. Never in my life had I ever wanted for work. I could always turn up a job at any time. I had let my hair go silver so I colored it blonde and I think that helped some but basically it was who I knew and taking a job at a lower level than I was used to that got me work. I remember getting turned down for a job that I was imminently qualified for and just bawling when I got off the phone. I didn't even want the crappy job but the fact that they turned me down was such a slap in the face. So it could be the economy, your background or who knows what but getting older really doesn't help!
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angryfirelord Donating Member (248 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-19-08 03:14 PM
Response to Original message
16. Happened to my father
At the time, he had around 25 years of experience as an engineer combined from the other jobs he previously held. With this company in particular (which assembles the paper & glue that becomes a sticker), they got an "ax man" for a boss and began chopping jobs left and right. Now my father wasn't a lowly peon, he was one of the top engineers at the place & was responsible for making sure everything was running smoothly. He even saved the company thousands of dollars from cleaning up the inefficiencies and designing better systems for managing the materials. But that didn't matter. Thanks to at-will employment, the company just axed him for "downsizing" purposes. During his out-of-work period, he spent 8 months looking for a job. When he did get interviews, do you want to know what the excuse was? He was overqualified. I don't know how many times he got that. He even told the employers he was willing to take a sizable pay cut from his previous job, but that didn't matter. After 8 months, he did get job...3 hours away from home. Today, after continuing to hunt, he did find another job that was closer about a year ago, but it's still a good travel time from the house.

What's the moral of the story? You are not a person to a corporation, you are a thing that sucks up money from their profits. Why else would companies outsource jobs? As a 19 year old soon to heading into the IT field, it scares me that I may not to be able to hold a job because of outsourcing and later on in life because I'm "overqualified". It's time that at-will employment is terminated & that more reviews from a company are submitted if someone is fired or laid-off. It's also time to do what Alexander Hamilton did a long time ago: raise the tariffs to keep our industries here in the country.

I sympathize with your problems and I hope you are able to locate another job.

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demodonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 12:36 AM
Response to Original message
18. So what's everybody supposed to do, kill themselves?

Step into the incineration chamber on a certain birthday?

SOMEbody over 35 must be working, SOMEwhere.......................

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cap Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 09:36 AM
Response to Original message
19. This is happening all over the country
there are a lot of foreclosures on 50 somethings that can't maintain their mortgage. It will be getting worse as the economy is worse.

Fortune 500 workplaces are getting extremely young. Typical line manager is in his 30's and the rest of the staff is 20 and 30 something.

Age discrimination is not addressed here in America. In Britian it is. There are laws on the books against age discrimination.
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cap Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 09:52 AM
Response to Original message
20. I have an idea for the near term
Edited on Mon Oct-20-08 09:54 AM by cap
Have you considered doing something radically different? Go take a bunch of tests such as MAPP, Meyers Briggs, DISC, etc. and see where the chips fall.

I know you could do marketing for an educational products company easily... but maybe there is something else. Education is projected to shift dramatically. Google the Future of Education ... there's a lot happening.

Think about doing something radically different. If you keep trying the same thing, it won't work too well. So do something very different. A book called the "Renaissance Soul" has a good framework for working out how to identify what that something different can be -- it is geared towards people who have multipotentiality -- can do many things well... but the beginning of the book has a good framework for identifying values and creating focal points and putting your plan into action. But I think there are a number of good ideas for people who are more focused... especially in that initial fuzzy phase where you are trying to define yourself.

Get out and do some public speaking in the mean time. Good luck.
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CoffeeCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 09:16 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. That is my advice too...make a change...
You sound like an incredibly capable and talented individual. It sounds like you have
excellent "sales" skills--in negotiating and selling ideas.

These skills are sought after in many industries. Not everyone is lucky enough to have
those skills. Maybe it's time for a complete job change.

I am 44, and I've been out of circulation for a decade. I can't believe it's been that long!
I quit a very lucrative job in high-tech public relations--to be a stay-at-home mom. A while
back, I considered going back to my last place of employment. I never applied or
put out the word--but I have a feeling that I would have been treated as you were. I produced
for that company. I was in charge of all public relations and media relations efforts for one
division--and we ended up generating 75 percent of the press that the company received.

However, companies--just like people--move on. You fit in during a certain time. As hard as this is to hear--they've
replaced you and they've adjusted to your absence. I know I wouldn't fit in with my old company--even
though I was valuable at one time--just as you were.

Sometimes, the universe gives us a nudge, and lets us know when it's time to move on. It's not
about your age, or your cancer or politics. It's just not the right place for you to be right now.
You've DONE that place. Now it's time to go to the next level.

You have talent and you've undoubtedly grown and strengthened during your time away from work. Something
better awaits you. Maybe a different field? A new institution or maybe even a new town?

Best of luck to you. I'm in a similar situation--awakening to the notion that I do want to return--but realizing
that this will be a completely new chapter in my life. That can be scary. We tend to want to revert
back to old, familiar places because it feels safe.

However, that's not always possible, and often--it's an opportunity to go to the next level--personally and

Just my 2 cents...for what it's worth. :)

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Dover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-20-08 11:07 PM
Response to Original message
22. Yes! But then I've felt that way since I was four...
.... :P ....
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cap Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-22-08 09:10 AM
Response to Original message
23. This is a social trend..
Dont take things personally. It is exhausting but it is most likely not your fault. Not to say that you don't need to take action and do your best. But you are fighting very large forces that are bigger than just yourself.

see the below thread on the rise of middle aged suicides:
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fed_up_mother Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-22-08 09:29 AM
Response to Original message
24. I think it's the cancer. You're being treated like the over fifty crowd. (That's me.)
It sucks.
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GoesTo11 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-26-08 05:33 PM
Response to Original message
25. Not so sure you are locked out
It's a tough market, and universities are facing tough times. I am not surprised if you call asking about jobs you'll get the brush off. But this should be a classic networking situation - let your old contacts know you're back and in the market and ask them to keep you posted on what they hear about. If they thought you were good, then even if they can't hire you, they'll be glad to recommend you or pass you on as a possibility if they do hear about anything. Again, in the current economy, it might just be impossible to quickly get a permanent job but in general, universities are less into this agism - professors turn 70 and hang on, so 42 is just a kid. Not only are universities less into agism, but energetic and skilled administrators - rather than bureaucrats - are valuable and hard to find, so I think you ought to be able to do it. Hope so. Good luck.

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sendero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-26-08 06:36 PM
Response to Original message
26. You are going to have a lot of company..
... in the coming years. In lean times, nobody hires unless there is a direct connection to the bottom line.

It is possible that your health issues are involved (even though this information is SUPPOSED to be private, companies can get a report on your health history), or it could be simply that they think they can get a younger person who can do the same work for less money.

Either way I know it is tough, my wife is picking up signals where she works that her job is likely to be cut. She's had extensive and expensive health problems, and I would not be at all surprised if that is most of the reason, she is very competent and productive.

I am over 50 myself and was out of work for quite a while a few years back. I was starting to wonder if I'd ever find another job but I did. And I went in for low pay and on my two year anniversary they hauled my into a VP's office and gave me a spontaneous 18% raise. (Well, they MIGHT have seen my resume on Monster :))

My advice is the same as many here, just hang in there, try to get creative, and don't give up. You will find a spot, it will just take longer than you wished.

Best of luck to you.
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AdHocSolver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-27-08 01:30 AM
Response to Original message
27. "Over-qualified" is bureaucratese for "We don't want to pay you what you are worth".
There are several issues here.

First, don't ever downgrade your self-worth because of this experience. I have had similar experiences, and I know many others who tell a story like yours.

It helps to understand the situation. Managers are under a lot of pressure to cut costs. Even if some manager wanted to hire you, his or her boss might look negatively on that manager for "going over budget".

Your health history is also a factor. Even though I had no major health issues, once I reached 55, I soon learned that the companies didn't care to hire me because of the cost of health insurance.

Another factor I can see that is NOT in your favor: You are TOO good. Years ago, I applied for a job as an electronics technician. I connected well with the boss and I thought getting this job should be a cinch. Then the boss had me take an electronics test. I got one hundred percent correct. However, my good feelings were soon shattered. In short, the boss put it this way. "You did very well on this test. You got the best score of anyone who ever took this test. You even got a better score THAN I GOT." End of interview.

Bosses don't like to hire people who are more talented than they perceive themselves to be. Their boss might decide to replace them.

Where am I going with this? First, you are overselling yourself. In these times, managers aren't looking for a star. They want someone who is competent and who won't bust their budget.

You will be received more favorably if you can get across that you are willing to pay for your own health insurance. If they let you buy into their group insurance, you can save some money that way. Some insurance companies will raise the rates for the entire group, if a certain number of employees have health issues. This may be a factor in your case. However, don't bring this up unless they are interested in hiring you, and let them bring benefits up first.

You should not limit yourself to universities in your job search. Hospitals do fund raising and nonprofits as well. Create a resume that shows competency, without appearing to be a "star". That way, you will show more "realistic" salary requirements.

One way I found employment was through temporary employment agencies. This got around the issue of health insurance for the hirirng company. However, a word of warning. Research the agencies very carefully. Understand, that they work for the employers who pay their bills, not you. Some I worked for were very good, and some really ripped me off royally. You have to know the going rate for the work you do. Otherwise, they will charge a lot for your services and pay you peanuts for the work that you do.

Working through a temp agency can lead to job offers. If the hiring organization likes your work, they may offer to buy your contract, that is, pay an agency fee to take you on as a regular employee. Since the employment agency charges the client much more than they pay you, careful negotiation can get you a higher salary than the agency pays you. The catch is if the agency will charge the client a "reasonable" amount to buy your contract. Agencies have you sign an agreement not to work for the client for, usually, one year after your job with them ends (read anything you sign with the agency very carefully before you sign) unless the client pays a hiring fee. (Be very leery of any company that underwrites its own employees' health insurance.)

I recommend writing a new resume and "rehearsing" a new interview scenario based on what I have written here and trying them out on your own first. Pay attention to the feedback that you get.

One more point. In another post, I think you mentioned posting references online. Never give out a reference to anyone unless you have had an interview with them, you are interested in working for them, and they ask for references. Some managers will routinely call references (or have a secretary do it) to weed out applicants even before an interview. If your references are bothered in this way, they will refuse to take calls about you. Don't provide references until AFTER an interview, so that you don't antagonize them with frivolous calls.

If I mistook what you said, this is still good advice.

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