When Linda Seger began her search for an entry-level job in the film industry, her biggest obstacle was her own success. Seger had spent years earning two master’s degrees and a doctorate in drama and the arts, eventually becoming a college professor. Then she decided to start fresh and pursue a career in script writing. Unfortunately, she knew she had far too much academic experience to land any of the entry-level jobs in the field.
“I realized the only thing I had to offer when entering the business was my typing ability,” she said. “I typed 123 wpm on an electric typewriter at the time. So I took all my degrees, except for my B.A. in English, off my resume, and sold myself on my typing,” she said. With that change, she managed to get her foot in the door as a secretary, and in the three decades since then, she has become a successful script writer and author. She admits there were moments when a boss would be surprised by how “educated” she was, but she said that was fine with her “because I had proven myself.”Seger’s predicament may sound unusual, but in the past few years, many job hunters have run up against an unfortunate conundrum. These days, due to the poor economy, many of the best jobs are scarce and more competitive. As a result, unemployed Americans must often aim lower and turn their attention from ‘dream’ jobs to ‘settle’ jobs.
As we reported recently, 6.7 million Americans have now been unemployed for six months or longer. If that’s not bad enough, earlier this year the AARP announced that the number of unemployed Americans who are 55 and older had increased by 331% between 2000 and 2009, eventually totaling more than 2 million last year. All of this contributes to a new trend in America where older and more experienced job seekers are forced to look to jobs for which they are overqualified just to make ends meet. The New York Times cited estimates which argue that as many as one in five Americans are “toiling in positions where their experience or education exceed their job descriptions.”The reality though is that when applying for lower-level jobs, there is a good chance that these candidates will be viewed as having too much experience, and may be turned down for that reason. This has led some job applicants and career experts to take a page from Seger’s playbook and find creative ways to tweak resumes.