It is a fair bet. Planning to retire early and finding that perfect stepped-down opportunity can be challenging. Early Retired and Overqualified is what can happen when Retiring and seeking a lower status position than the title you retired from. It puts early retirees into that overqualified category to overcome. This can happen when pursuing something in a new field. When looking for a lower stress and lower responsibility job. It can hit while pursuing either full-time or part-time opportunities.
Retiring Early and trying to start a new opportunity means you will probably encounter at least one rejection due to being overqualified. Retiring early and deciding to live the “retire early and often” lifestyle isn’t always going to come easily for the Early Retired and Overqualified.
I ran into it and failed with the first job I was targeting and interviewed for. On a later opportunity I was able to overcome the overqualified concerns. I was hired on my second targeted stepped-down lower stress and responsibility position. There is a key to creating our strategy to overcome the Early Retired and Overqualified challenges. We need to take an honest look at both sides of this issue and what we are dealing with.
Early Retired and Overqualified – The Employer’s View
“I’m sorry but we think you are overqualified for this position. But thanks for your interest”
Most people who encounter this will see it is one of two things or a combination of both.
#1- This is their way of saying we are too old. It is pretty easy to see how throwing the “overqualified” excuse out there to exclude older applicants for whatever reason can be happening. But we should look at the perceived reasons an employer would want to exclude older applicants.
- Higher cost for medical
- To rigid, not flexible
- Expect too much pay
- Slow to learn or accept new ideas/technology
- Stale skills
- Less energy
#2- The reason may be that the employer has concerns that you would be bored with this lower level position. Then leave the minute something else came along.
- Bored and dissatisfied employees under-perform.
- It costs to train someone and if they soon jump ship it is wasted.
- They wouldn’t be able to offer a salary anywhere near what you are used to.
Early Retired and Overqualified – The Early Retiree’s View
You retired early and want to pursue opportunities that you have interest in and can be passionate about. You could be wanting to start a new career path and trying to get your foot in the door. Maybe you just want to step-down your work related stress and responsibility so you have targeted the perfect position. Your resume is well written highlighting all the skills you believe would be the best fit and most beneficial to the employer. Everything seems perfect but your motives are also of issue.
- You are picky and are not just looking for a job. You are looking for work you really want to do. Something aligned with your interests and passions.
- You’ve purposely cherry picked the skills you want to use in your second act. Excluding the ones you don’t want to keep doing.
- You know the salary may be less but so should the stress and responsibility.
- You love to learn new things and have prepared for this opportunity.
- You’re medical insurance may already be covered.
- You are looking for more flexibility in your work vs personal life just like everyone else.
- You fill in this blank…… Know and understand all of your motives for wanting the opportunity.
Are You Early Retired and Overqualified? Overcoming Overqualified
If you get the “you are overqualified” comment then here is the secret strategy. Just be honest. You have nothing lose at this point.
First off you must have sparked some interest to get an interview to be hearing this overqualified concern. It is likely there isn’t a form of ageism going on if you went into the interview showing all of your enthusiasm and interest in the position during the interview. I would think having an age bias situation would have resulted in the employer tossing your resume.
So understanding what their concerns might be, including possible ageism and knowing what our motives are helps us explain a few things to them to counter their over qualified concerns.
If you go down the list of what we consider to be their view we should be able to cancel them out. We do this by using our list of stepped-down or new career field opportunity pursuit motives.
My Experience Overcoming Overqualified
I retired early from my first career as a telecommunication lead engineer at the age of 51. After which I took 6 months off to decompress and enjoy my hard-won early retirement. I had always planned on retiring early and often. It was a long career and I wanted to go after something new. Something that met my interest and passion list. What I called “jobs I would like to do” on my bucket list.
One of my primary targets was taking a position with less authority, less responsibility, less stressful, and as I would expect less pay. Less pay wasn’t a concern of mine because my early retirement was fully funded. Anything I made went right to the portfolio and invested.
My First Passion Driven Attempt Failed
There were a few positions I chased that went nowhere. Maybe my skills didn’t appeal to them. Perhaps there was age bias causing my resume to be tossed aside. I will never know. But I did get an interview for a part-time position completely outside of what I did before. It was to work in an area of passion doing a landscape and gardening opportunity. It was at an independent large-scale (acreage sized) garden and landscape wholesale/retail operation.
The interview seemed to be a routine and halfhearted on their part. Not an interview where I felt I was truly being considered. That’s because I did get the “overqualified” reason for this entry-level part-time job to get my foot in the door. I tried to counter but not for long as I could tell their minds were already made. I really wanted a career change in this area and I was disappointed but that is how it goes.
My Second Attempt Succeeded in Overcoming Early Retired and Overqualified
Using My Motives To Counter Overqualified
My second opportunity was in the telecom area. But this was a totally different technology. One that I always had interest in, Wireless. My career had been in the traditional and dying old-school land-line telephone network. This position offered training about wireless technology and I get paid while doing it.
It was also in my town within 4 miles of my house. I retired as a lead engineer working in a Network Operations Center (NOC). This was going in full-time as a Wireless NOC Technician. I was interviewed by the manager and I thought it was going well. It then got to the “overqualified” concern. I simply ran down my list of reasons why I really wanted the opportunity.
My Counter to Overqualified
- I retired as an engineer but my goal was seeking semi-retirement in a position just like this. A position aligned with my skills and passions.
- I am aware this opportunity doesn’t pay as much as I was making before. I would be perfectly satisfied with a salary offer within the range appropriate for this job and what my skills and experience can bring to your operations.
- The most important thing I wanted to tell them was why I was there pursuing this opportunity. NOT because I just NEEDED a job but because I WANTED to do THIS job and learn all I could about the Wireless Network and industry.
Success! I was hired and was there just short of 2 years and learned everything I wanted to learn about wireless technology and their networks. I only left this fun stepped-down position to accept another encore career opportunity. Another from my bucket list of jobs that I wanted to do.
This stepped-down Wireless Tech job was a very rewarding experience. I was able to apply my skills to help them make improvements in some of their operations. Including technical documentation and training other technicians.
Tricky Navigation Through Overqualified Obstacles
Being Early Retired and Overqualified can be a tricky challenge to overcome. There is no simple remedy or one-answer to overcome it. It comes down to understanding the employer view-point and knowing your motivations to counter them. Even then it may not be enough. If you are set on a stepped-down position I have some more recommendations.
I have become friends with the owner of a Temp Agency through socializing at the local coffee-shop. She gave me some great advice. She explained that it would be easier to prove you aren’t a job hopping flight risk and serious about your new stepped-down lifestyle targets if you have already been doing it.
Her advise. Try accepting temp opportunities that are in your target area or close to it. Meaning close enough to be using the same skill sets. I told her of my Landscape/Garden opportunity failure and she said she could see their hesitation. That is because it was too different from my career using my brains sitting in an office. My seeking a career change to what is a more physical path would be cause for pause. Point taken.
Tips To Overcome Being Early Retired and Overqualified
- Pick smaller companies that may have limited salary budgets. They will most likely put a high value on your skills. Believe me, they will take advantage of you being there.
- Be honest, you have nothing to lose. If they really don’t want you there. Then you don’t want to be there.
- Target a stepped-down opportunity in the same field or close to the same field you retired from. It may be easier to land.
- If available to you, consider Temp work. Use it as a way to show your commitment to your stepped-down lifestyle choice in early retirement. Use it to test yourself of that commitment.
- Do not dumb-down your achievements and experience. Employers really do want smart and skilled people working for them.
- If all else fails and you can’t get interviews for your stepped-down targets. Then change your strategy. From pursuing a stepped-down position to a more lateral position in the same or different field. One that you have interest and passion in doing. I actually found this to be easier to accomplish. You can always retire again and that is exactly what I did. I am on Early Retirement number 2 and loving it.