Qualified vs. over-qualified

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Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit http://www.ladybug-design.com

Dear Sam: I am sure you find your inbox filled with requests like mine, but I don't know where else to turn. I have been on unemployment for more than eight months and have not landed a single interview! I have actually never been able to secure a "job of my dreams" since I immigrated to the United States 14 years ago. I possess an advanced degree in music education, but am unable to find a job and unable to retarget my resume to secure work in an alternate field. – Nada

Dear Nada: I'm so sorry to hear that since coming to the U.S., you have been unable to secure your "dream job." From looking at your resume, I can see you are a highly qualified music educator with a document that should be fairly effective in positioning you for professor opportunities at the college level. What I am concerned about, however, is the appearance„owith this resume„oof the transferability of your qualifications and experience into other fields.

I imagine that professor opportunities with area colleges and universities, within departments of music, are few and far between, so having a resume that sells your transferable skills would be vital in opening doors in other areas of interest.

Determine what you are qualified to do and interested in pursuing
The first step in writing a resume, which positions you for opportunities outside of your main field of experience and education, is to determine what those alternate opportunities may be. You could take your training and experience in multiple directions. I can think of several options I have seen other candidates pursue with similar backgrounds: teaching at a middle or high school level, a business development position with an organization in the music industry, or even a program leadership role in a nonprofit with work closely associated with your craft. Start perusing job postings and identify what positions are out there for which you fulfill the majority of qualifications, and start to think of your experience in a different light.

Keyword map to outline content development strategies
Once you have found a handful of positions of interest, I recommend performing a keyword mapping exercise in order to outline the content most important to include in your resume. To perform keyword mapping, I suggest the following steps:
(1) Print a representative sampling of job postings (10 or so) you are interested in;
(2) read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper;
(3) cross-reference the list with your qualifications, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper, and crossing them off the left side of the paper;
(4) for items that you "sort of" have, "move" those to the middle of the paper.

This "master list" will then illustrate an overview of your qualifiers (right side of the page), disqualifiers (left side of the page), and potential disqualifiers (middle of the page). These keywords and phrases then need to be incorporated into your resume, being very careful how you handle or perhaps address items that remain on the left side of the page or fall in the middle. This exercise will provide you with a roadmap for the language you need to speak to develop a targeted resume based on your areas of interest. This exercise will also showcase whether your career targets are too diverse. If you find yourself writing furiously by the time you are mapping your sixth or seventh job posting, then perhaps you need to take a closer look at the target of your job search to ensure you are positioning yourself as something and not everything.

Walk a fine line between qualified and overqualified
I fear, based on your impressive qualifications, you are applying for positions and being deemed overqualified. It is important to note that an overqualified candidate is less likely to receive a call than an underqualified candidate. When you are overqualified for a position for which you are applying, the hiring manager may feel that the open position may not be a challenge for you, that you may become easily bored, that it may be a stepping stone while you find the "right" opportunity, and that you may not be willing to accept the salary for the position. It is unfortunate that these are assumptions that are made, but you need to be aware that these thoughts may be going through the minds of the reviewers if you are applying for positions for which you are vastly overqualified.

The keyword mapping exercise above will help you make certain that the content you present is in line with the requirements for the positions for which you are applying. Once you define your target and identify the language that needs to be spoken, you can rebuild your resume using your most applicable transferable skills, hopefully positioning your job search for success. Best to you.

Would you like ‘Dear Sam' to critique your resume? For a critique, send resume to her.

Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at dearsam@ladybug-design.com. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).