Downshifting: the sequel part III
April 17, 2013 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Pursuant to two earlier questions today regarding how to get jobs one is overqualified for, I was wondering about taking degrees and job titles off of my resume. Isn't that unethical? Won't it come up, eventually, that I have this whole other degree? If it matters, I'm a master's-degreed librarian with 10+ years' experience looking for work as a library assistant or in an lower-level university admin capacity.

I've sent out many, many resumes and cover letters over the course of the last year, and have been met with radio silence. I've had savvy people review my materials and have networked to the best of my abilities. I usually try to explain my reasons for wanting to step down or out of my current professional-track job as a desire for work that I don't take home with me (phrased a little fancier than that)*. For some jobs, I emphasize the aspect of the job description with which I'm particularly enamored--for example, with any job that has a writing component I stress my desire to move into a writing career.

But could it be that places are not calling me back because I'm in this very specific niche career, with a master's degree? I realize that having a master's degree in library science is not the height of glamour, but could it still be hurting my chances? Should I leave the master's degree off? How does one do that!? It also seems like it would be hard to fudge my very specific job title--"librarian."

*I realize that there are many lower-level office jobs where long hours and taking work home are expected--I'm aiming for university jobs specifically because it's my understanding that the culture's generally a little more laid back there.

Thank you, Metafilter, for any advice you can offer!
posted by indognito to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not unethical. Your resume isn't your biography; it's a piece of paper where you lay out what you think are your qualifications for the job you're applying for.

It would be unethical if they had a questionnaire asking for your highest level of education and you omitted it.

If it comes up later, no big deal. Don't avoid it and don't lie about it. No one will care.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 3:59 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I leave a degree off my resume because it doesn't relate to my work at all. There's nothing wrong with it.

I have had people google me and bring it up in an interview- I just say it was for personal enrichment and move on.

In your case, it sounds like they would know that a librarian has to have a master's degree, though. In that case, leaving it off may raise more questions than not.
posted by winna at 4:20 PM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't have any super long form advice to add, but i will say that my S.O. is a library assistant, and a lot of lower level library people actually have masters degrees. It seems basically impossible to get in to a library job at any library without starting on rung 1 or 2 these days, so it seems a lot of people who are "overqualified" in theory for those positions start at them anyways to climb up later.

I think it would be pretty normal to be applying to an assistant position with a masters. If anything, leaving it off might hurt* since a lot of the other applicants would also have masters degrees.

It's one thing when you're applying to a lower level job where not many people would have that level of education, but low(er) level library jobs seem to be a complete anomaly in that sense.

*this is not a super educated opinion, just applying some knowledge from other fields and the fact that i saw it from the inside a bit when i interned at a library a few years ago
posted by emptythought at 4:28 PM on April 17, 2013

Thanks, all! I won't threadsit except to say that I guess the librarian situation is kind of a unique conundrum because--as you point out, winna--being a librarian requires the master's degree. So leaving it off the resume would be weird, unless I flat-out pretended that I wasn't a librarian in my current job.

posted by indognito at 4:35 PM on April 17, 2013

I take the other side of it. A resume is a sort of historical document. Spun in the best possible light, of course. But leaving out a degree in your field is an attempt to game the system. You are hiding something about your educational history to somehow gain. This seems unethical to me.

(The why is more important than the what. If you are applying for a job as a nurse and you have a masters in nursing, but also have a masters in fine arts, leaving it off seems expedient- they don't care, it isn't relevant. But in this case, it is relevant.)

Your cover letter and interview is where you explain yourself and why your resume makes you a good fit for the position.
posted by gjc at 5:13 PM on April 17, 2013

are you currently working? could you include that you have a masters, but in your most recent position, instead of 1999-present, put 1999-2013? that seems less dishonest to me, and if i were reading the resume, i would assume that you lost your job, which would make more sense to me as a reason for looking for a lower level position than that you just want less responsibility.

is it possible that in a different type of library there would be less expectation of working more than 40 hours or being always available? i think it really varies between institutions or types of institutions, so maybe you could find a job as a librarian that still met your needs.
posted by katieanne at 5:33 PM on April 17, 2013

I think your 10+ years of experience are going to be more of a problem than the masters (although I did have people tell me that they didn't hire MLIS's for assistant positions when I was looking straight out of school). Because either you were getting relavent experience in some nebulous way or you were a librarian and now they're on to you.

Also what kind of libraries expect you to take your work home? I would like to avoid.
posted by grapesaresour at 6:46 PM on April 17, 2013

The only way it would be unethical or cause problems with your employer once you got the job is if you tried to use your previously undisclosed credentials or experience to gain some sort of benefit that your employer hadn't expected to give you (e.g., after a month you say, "Per Rule 39.a.2, as an MLIS, I must be employed as a Level 4 Librarian, rather than as the Level 2 Librarian's Assistant you hired me as.").
posted by Etrigan at 6:56 PM on April 17, 2013

Some Universities have rules where your pay scale is at least partially dependent on your qualification level so they may simply not be able to afford to hire you for their assistant positions. But I don't know if this is the case for where you're applying.

This does seem like a situation where informational interviews might be helpful. Are you able to chat with people who have the job you want or who hire people for those positions? Then you'd be able to find out if it's your degree that's holding you back or something else, and also ask for their opinions on what you should do about it.
posted by shelleycat at 12:58 AM on April 18, 2013

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