Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sorry, you're overqualified

By Jose Castillo/Flickr
A friend of mine, a 50-something public relations woman, is between jobs. Has been for sometime.
It’s not that she’s not qualified for the jobs to which she applies. She gets told over and over again that she’s overqualified.
Imagine that. Being told that you aren’t acceptable for a position because – well – you’d just be too good at it.
In all likelihood this is really all about money. Why hire an overqualified woman in her 50s and pay her her worth when you can get a fresh-out-of-college 20-something  for a lot less money?
Some places are even going further – boldly skirting laws against age discrimination – by laying off long-time and valued workers in their 50s and 60s – and then redefining and reposting their positions (if you “redefine” it then it’s not exactly the same job it was before – so it’s harder for the former employee to claim he or she was replaced by a younger, less costly, person).
Those perceptions are underscored in a new Gallup poll which finds that those who are getting hired these days are younger and less educated.
After all, how old and educated do you have to be to get a job cleaning garbage cans?
Now, I bet very few of you even knew there was such a job. But I do, because I happened to catch a PBS piece yesterday where a degreed young man was interviewed about his long bout of unemployment – and how he finally got a job outside of his field – cleaning garbage cans.
Which brings us to the next point. It’s not that the younger folks are getting such a good deal in this economy either. I know so many people in their 20s who have gone to college – obviously at great expense – and who have not been able to find a job in their chosen field. So they opt for less. Less in terms of job satisfaction. Less in terms of pay.
They struggle to make ends meet. Not only do they have expenses, but they are paying off loans. But the jobs they get pay much less than what they would have made had they gotten a job for which they were educated.
Some high school graduates are questioning the value of a continuing education.  ”Why should I get a loan to go to college and then assume a debt I’ll be saddled with for years because there are no jobs anyway?” one post-high schooler asked me.
Adding to these pressures, both for the young and the older, are the number of people  just shy of retirement age who have been laid off and who are now competing for “entry level” jobs with their own children.
This is a nation that has long valued education. The genesis for public education dates back to the days of our Founding Fathers – first suggested by Thomas Jefferson.  And nine colleges were chartered during colonial daysbefore the Revolutionary War.
But education is supposed to mean a job – and a secure future. Unfortunately for the young – there are no job guarantees – at least not in the fields they went to school to learn. And for the older – well – a lot of them are finding it tough to find a job too because they are overqualified.
And yesterday the Labor Department reported the unemployment rate was up.
Gary Baumgarten is the news and programming director at the Paltalk News Network.

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