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Dear Electra,

I'm just starting my search on JobStar. By the end of the week I'll have a better idea of its value. However, I must say that any bit of information that I can garner from any source will be an aid.

My most serious problems seem to be the following:

  1. I'm 60.
  2. I have two degrees, and have almost 40 years experience in my field, which seems to scare some people away. (ie: over-qualified or too expensive.)
Over-Qualified at 60
I think you are in the vanguard of what is to come. When my generation (the baby boomers) turns sixty there will be millions & millions of us in your position.

Let's talk about how health care benefits impact your career plans at 60, whether becoming a consultant is right for you, and how to find a jobs at 60 & play the "overqualified" game. Finally, what do you need to consider if there is age discrimination at work.

1. Do you need traditional employment? In particular, do you already have benefits such as health insurance? Without secure health benefits, very few people can BE entrepreneurial...especially at 60.

2. If you do not have the benefits you need, can you find a way to provide your own (either by paying for it yourself, Medicare, or retirement from a prior employment)? If so, consider looking for consulting contracts rather than traditional employment. [Those who are over qualified, over experienced & expensive can really thrive here!]

3. Have you ever worked as an independent contractor or consultant? What this generally means is you get paid X amount to accomplish Y.Generally with little supervision, on your own premises (often), and using ALL your skills to pull it off.

Electra wrote several columns about this that you might want to check:
Work at Home
Contractor or Employee?

4. If a traditional job is what you must have, the Hidden Job Market is probably your best bet.Use your experience and contacts to make connections with employers who have problems to solve. If you can reach them while they are still muddling over the problem--instead of later when they are reviewing a pile of resumes--you will have solved their problem by showing up with exactly what they need!

5. There are ways to play the "over-qualified" game with traditional jobs. Your resume only need reflect the last 10 to 20 years of your work life, if you so choose. You must make sure the resume is not about you, and degrees, etc., but addresses the problems your new employer needs to solve. JobStar's Resume section may help you re-work your resume to focus on the employer's needs. The more you know about the company and the industry, the better your resume will be. See JobStar's Researching Companies to do some online sleuthing and JobStar's Networking for getting "inside" information.

At the interview you have to be careful not to scare the interviewer! (That is putting it bluntly.) In my opinion, interviewers (at any level) are very aware of those folks who may come in with a "critical" attitude about the business. This goes even for folks like me with only 15 years experience.

Sometimes when you're called "over-qualified" the employer really means: "Someone with your experience won't be happy here. What if this company is not up to your standards? How will you react when your managers are younger and less experienced than you? How tolerant will you be of our inexperience and mistakes?"

"Over-qualified" may also mean: "We can find someone else to do this job for less." [Check JobStar's Salary Surveys for Specific Professions to get an idea of the going rate.]

It may ALSO mean, "You would be a better employee at a higher level than we need at this point." [In which case you need to work the Hidden Job Market, which is where more senior employees are hired, rather than advertised positions.]

It may also mean, as you are well aware, "You're just too old for us."

Feel around gently, during the interview or afterwards, to see what "over-qualified" means to a particular employer. Can you modify the way you present yourself? Are you interviewing for the right jobs? Is an attitude adjustment in order? (Unfortunately yours is the only attitude you can modify without a lawsuit or more contact than an employment interview affords.)

6. Are you being discriminated against because of your age? Possibly. You'd need legal advice rather than Electra's for that.

For some background on age discrimination issues, see
The Department of Labor's Brochure on Age Discrimination.
The American Association of Retired Persons' Careers section outlines strategies & options for finding work as an older person.

Nolo Press, a publisher of self-help legal guides, offers an Age Discrimination at Work.

Check the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website. They offer a section, "About Age Discrimination" as well as information about filing a charge of discrimination.


Page last updated: 8:46 AM on 5/22/09