Want a entry level office job
April 17, 2013 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Will employer consider a misfit overqualified job applicant for office jobs? Here is the scenario: a biochemistry pHD with many years of post-phD experience both in academic and industry. But due to family reasons (3 young kids, a busy husband), this person only wants a low-stress 9-5 job. Salary is not an issue. But this person does want to learn new things and work with nice people and take new experience for future career development when kids are grown. Do you have experience like this applying to entry level jobs that only need communication and office work related skills? Hiring managers, do you even consider such application? Appreciate any personal stories like this.
posted by akomom to Work & Money (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I work for a small software company that hires people with little/no experience in our sales dept. It's low-pressure - inbound calls or outbound to warm leads. The salary is pretty crappy but you learn a lot. So that's a data point.
posted by radioamy at 12:29 PM on April 17, 2013

Well, hopefully you dont call yourself or refer to yourself as a misfit, or say you're overqualified during the interview. Those descriptors stay in the air.

Focus on the desire to learn new things and work in a friendly environment. If the hiring manager sees your resume, they'll ask on their own why you want to work in an office.

Just go with a smile, confidence, answer questions straightforwardly and get to the core reason for an entry level job later during the conversation.
posted by rhythm_queen at 12:32 PM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes people would consider someone with a phd to be overqualified for low end office work. That doesn't mean an offer won't be made but the prospective employee would have to assuage the employer's concerns.
posted by dfriedman at 12:34 PM on April 17, 2013

I took a contract job a short time ago that was not so challenging as previous work I've done. Nowhere near the extreme you're talking about.

The final interview question was why I wanted the job because I could be doing other things. I had good (and true) answers so I got the gig and it was the good experience I anticipated it would be.

The key is to have satisfactory answers for questions like, "What happens when you get bored with this job?"
posted by trinity8-director at 12:41 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

You need to explain to me in your cover letter why you want this. If you don't your resume gets rejected.

I hired a former VP to be a receptionist because she explained to me in her cover letter why she only wanted a part time, no take home work job (to spend more time with her kids). She was a very efficient receptionist :)
posted by magnetsphere at 12:44 PM on April 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

Personally, I wouldn't put all that over qualification on my resume.

I'd dumb it down and target it to the jobs I wanted to secure. Sending a resume like yours, for an entry level job, is plain silly. The silence will be deafening.

I wouldn't lie, I would omit anything that's not a job skill they're looking for and I would emphasize the skills they ARE looking for. The first thing you have to do is get it past the scanners, so if you send your stellar resume, thinking that if you put Ph.D. on there that they can assume that you type 45 WPM, think again.

I've done it, and it works. Don't assume that anyone will read your cover letter, scanners will kick your resume out before it even gets to a human.

I left AT&T in 2008 as Senior Signature Account Manager. I have an MBA.

When I decided my next job, I picked a piece of software I wanted to learn and applied for jobs where I'd get experience doing that.

The jobs were primarily in Sales Operations. That was great. I changed my Sales Job titles, and emphasized the reporting I did and discussed the systems I had used. I took the MBA off and turned it into a degree in Business Administration.

When asked about my Salesforce.com experience I said, "Well I've used Oracle, Act and a few homegrown systems, they're all pretty much the same, right?"

The manager agreed and I got the job. I worked there for 2 years, becoming an excellent Salesforce.com Administrator. Then I added the job to my resume and go hired at a larger company with more pay.

Guys who got laid off with me didn't change anything, they've been bouncing from one telecom sales job to another.

Now, having said that, have you tried a government job? Talk about 9-5. You can get paid excellent money, amazing benefits, more time off than you can shake a stick at AND you can use your Ph.D. It can be low stress if you want it to be.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

Strongly seconding magnetsphere--the cover letter is the thing here.
posted by box at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2013

But due to family reasons (3 young kids, a busy husband), this person only wants a low-stress 9-5 job. Salary is not an issue. But this person does want to learn new things and work with nice people and take new experience for future career development when kids are grown.

An office job will not really teach you any new things, and it's a crap shoot as to whether you will meet nice people. If you don't need it for financial reasons, why not volunteer somewhere? Set your own hours and do work that matters to you. Especially as relates to future career development, a receptionist or admin job will not help you. And as someone who's done those jobs, I can tell you they are quite often both desperately boring and very stressful.

If you do need the money, then you can sign up with a temp agency and they'll not really care about your background so long as you pass the software/math/typing tests. This also lowers the stress in that you are not considered as part of the company, but just as an hourly worker, and they are less likely to ask you for extra time since you aren't salary. And if they suck, you can tell your agency to find you something else.
posted by emjaybee at 12:53 PM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

The replies are encouraging. I think it's all part of life, reconfigure career path, learn new things, pay the due when family needed it. Time to start trying.
Thanks folks! Welcome more feedback or advice.
posted by akomom at 12:54 PM on April 17, 2013

If your family doesn't need the money from your theoretical job - maybe look into starting a small home based business that you can work on as much or as little as you want? If you want to learn new stuff starting your own business will accomplish that.
posted by COD at 1:07 PM on April 17, 2013

A few years ago when I was desperate for work & couldn't find anything, I experimented with taking my master's degree off my resume and claiming I'd been the personal assistant to an architect for $10/hr during the gap that omitting grad school would have created. The jobs I was applying for weren't personal assistantish, so the skillset I was claiming to have (which I do, albeit not architecture-specific) wasn't relevant so much as the implication that I was willing to work for low wages doing a variety of personal assistant-ish jobs spanning administrative to low-impact physical labor. Suddenly the callbacks started coming in much, much more rapidly. But I agree with emjaybee that you may want to reexamine your reasoning for an admin job or try it out with temping first, and with Ruthless Bunny that you may be able to spin your PhD work into "researched and edited articles for publication," etc.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:12 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

yes, at-home small business and volunteer work are options. But it will be nice to have 401K and health insurance for the family. Can people help with job search terms? "secretary", "customer service", "sales", "assistant"? So many years of narrow, specialized work makes me ignorance of other types of jobs. Thanks!
posted by akomom at 1:16 PM on April 17, 2013

I just did a search on USAJOB.gov and I found 6 items.

You can take off the Ph.D and just go for Biochemistry, you might find even more jobs!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:16 PM on April 17, 2013

Strongly unseconding magnetsphere & box - often your cover letter does not get read at all.

Re job titles - there's also program manager, project manager, account manager. Lots of officey stuff doesn't involve being an admin.
posted by troyer at 1:28 PM on April 17, 2013

I was working an office job up until very recently, and the company would have loved to take you. It was a tutorial college, we all did a bit of a mish mash of stuff, but the basic idea was to link students with people who wanted to tutor them, and keep tabs on everyone to make sure it was going smoothly. As the place I was at had pretensions of academic grandeur, they were really keen to grab people with lots of initials after their names for any job going. I'm not sure if there are many places like that, but if you could focus your job search towards admin for higher education or academia, your experience could be a big bonus for your employer.
posted by Ned G at 1:51 PM on April 17, 2013

Strongly unseconding magnetsphere & box - often your cover letter does not get read at all.

I think you might be surprised how often it DOES get read. At the very least skimmed by the initial person weeding resumes. Especially if someone seems insanely overqualified for a job, you go to the cover letter for some explanation as to why this person is applying.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:43 PM on April 17, 2013

I would highly recommend networking in the startup community. It is much more accepting, you will learn a lot, you will have fun, and it will look great on your resume when the kids are older and you are ready to dial your career up a notch. Lots of networking opportunities too (example).
posted by rada at 3:26 PM on April 17, 2013

Now, having said that, have you tried a government job? Talk about 9-5. You can get paid excellent money, amazing benefits, more time off than you can shake a stick at AND you can use your Ph.D.

Are we talking a government job in the U.S.? If so, speaking as someone with a U.S. federal government job, I'll tell you that I get in at 7:00 a.m. and am often in the office until 5-6 p.m. Weekend and after-hours work is pretty typical as well and not regularly compensated. On the compensation side - if you get a local or state government job, unless you are part of a very small minority you are not paid at all well. Federal jobs generally pay better, but but not particularly great (I also have a Ph.D., FWIW). And the benefits are mediocre, unless you work for a particular subset.

Stress is optional, as you say, I don't find it stressful and really love my work. I feel fulfilled by my job and believe that I have the chance to make a real, tangible difference every day, so my job and work extremely hard to do a good job (the long hours are expected, but I also am very willing to put them in).

This is also not a great time to be looking for a federal job - with the sequester many agencies are reducing staffing and reassigning existing permanent employees. Hiring is frozen in some agencies or slowed to a trickle elsewhere.

However, with all that said - I still find federal service to be a challenging and fulfilling career, and am very happy to go to work every day.
posted by arnicae at 8:16 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

You tell two stories when you apply for a job, and yes, they are stories. The first is your resume, listing your dry qualifications. Consider this the bricks of your application. The second is your cover letter. This is more the mortar, and this is your chance to explain why you're going to be good at this job and why you want it.

As described, I wouldn't hire you because 1) I think you'd leave or not give much of a shit. Entry level office jobs are often very stressful. 2) Generic office jobs don't really exist any more than an average service industry jobs.

What I'd do if I were you/your friend is look for jobs that you have direct experience in or demonstrable enthusiasm for. Say, advertising. Take a class, do some volunteering, something to prove that this is a specific thing you can talk competently and excitably about. That's way more important that being overqualified.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:39 PM on April 17, 2013

Have you tried contacting placement agencies? They specializing in filling these kind of roles with temp to perm employees and can help you package and submit your history to speak to what you're looking for. I would suggest that as a second step if searching on your own isn't fruitful.
posted by itsonreserve at 6:04 AM on April 18, 2013

this person only wants a low-stress 9-5 job

I think this is true of a great many people, but getting a job like that is kind of a fantasy. The only people I know with low-stress jobs are people who've been with the organization a very long time, decades.
posted by Rash at 8:22 AM on April 18, 2013

Rash's comment with the phase "kind of a fantasy" strike a chord on me. Others are also pointing out that entry level jobs are often stressful. The reality is that I won't be satisfied with just any entry job to get the small salary. To convince people to hire me, and to make sure I won't suffer after taking such a job, I need to think through and know the industry. so more prep work (networking, reading...) need to be done in order to land a good fit job.
Eager to hear more voices and opinions on this subject.
posted by akomom at 10:52 AM on April 18, 2013

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