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What to Do When Employers Say You're Overqualified

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Dear Career,

I don't know what to do anymore. I have an advanced degree in my field, but we've moved so much I haven't been able to gain much experience.

The problem is, when I apply for entry-level jobs -- no matter what field -- I'm told that I'm overqualified because of my education. It doesn't help that we're in a small town for this duty station.

I'd take any job at this point. What do I do now?

-- Regretting My Education

Dear Regretting --

This is unfortunately an age-old problem: How do you get experience if no one will give you a chance to get experience? Throw in the extra considerations of having an advanced degree and moving every couple of years, and you can start to feel pretty desperate pretty fast.

So how should you address it?

First, think about things from an employer's perspective: Many employers won't call an overqualified candidate because they're afraid the person will expect too high a salary. Or perhaps there's little room for advancement in the position, and they think you'll take the job and leave as soon as you find something better.

Second, think about a way to tell the employer your story. If it's a small business, try dropping your application off in person (unless application instructions said not to, of course). You never know what opportunity will arise if you're there. Do not be pushy, but simply stop in and tell them you're applying and you'd love the chance to work there. If the receptionist offers to introduce you to the manager or hiring officer, take the opportunity.

Whether in person or online, put your story in your cover letter. When telling your story, stay positive. Don't focus on what you don't have, or what may be perceived as a bad thing (being overqualified), but instead focus on your eagerness to work for the company.

And do your homework. Be prepared to tell them why you're excited. What is it about the position or company that makes you want to work there? That enthusiasm just may be enough to take their focus off the things that don't make sense to them on paper.

Keep pressing,

-- Have a spouse career question to submit? Email us at

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Dear Career tackles the trickiest careers questions from real military spouses with advice from spouse career experts at In Gear Career.

A part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, In Gear Career chapters provide professional development and networking to career-minded military spouses located at military installations around the world.

Want to find a local In Gear Career chapter or learn more about what In Gear Career can do for you? Find us here!

Have a career question you’d like to submit? Email our experts at

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