Unemployed and Overqualified When to Take the Job

Work + Money

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Nancy Collamer, Career Consultant, Author & Speaker

By Nancy Collamer

Dear Ms. Unemployed: 

Congratulations!  Due to your excellent credentials, we are pleased to make you an offer of employment. The Good News: After months of job searching in a tough economy, you’ve finally been offered a new job.  The Bad News: The job title, responsibilities and compensation are less than you hoped for. 

Sound familiar?

Welcome to the world of the unemployed and overqualified.  It’s a new reality for many mid-level and executive professionals who are trying to navigate their careers back to health after enduring a layoff.

The question of whether to accept a “lesser” job is tricky.  If you accept the new position, is it a long-term step backwards?  Or, if you don’t take the job, could it be months before another offer comes your way? 

While there are no one-size-fits-all answers to these questions, here are ten questions to help you better evaluate your options and make an informed decision:

  1. Is this an opportunity to work within a growth industry? In general, it is better to accept a lower-paying position within a growth industry than to earn a larger paycheck in a less robust industry. 
  2. Is the company healthy?  Be sure to check out the financial health of the company before signing on the dotted line.  Your opportunities for advancement will be strongest with companies that are on a growth trajectory and are expanding in areas that align with your expertise. 
  3. Do you like your boss?  The value of a strong and supportive boss is critical to long-term job satisfaction. A good boss will recognize your talents, act as a mentor and advocate for your advancement when it comes time for promotions and raises.
  4. Is the company culture a good fit?  Don’t underestimate the impact of company culture on your happiness and advancement potential.  Seek out companies that “fit” you well (in terms of age, values, lifestyle and personality) to enhance your odds of being successful.
  5. Are your skills valued and needed?  While all companies need people with a variety of skills, not all firms value the same skills equally.  Look for opportunities where your skills are considered a “hot commodity” and allow you to quickly impact bottom-line success.
  6. Will this job broaden your skill base?  Jobs that enable you to learn new skills and technologies provide added value that translates into enhanced marketability and income potential down the road.   
  7. Can you attend classes and/or conferences? In our fast-paced economy, there is a strong demand for people who have up-to-date credentials and education.  Look for companies that offer their employees in-house training and/or reimbursement for outside educational offerings.
  8. Will this job expand your network of influential contacts?  Your network of business contacts is a vital component of your long-term career success.  Who you know is arguably more important than what you know.  Seek out jobs that will enable you to broaden your network of influential career-related associates.
  9. Are there lifestyle benefits associated with this job?  Although your initial offer package might be disappointing, the company culture might promote lifestyle benefits (e.g., a short commute, summer hours, opportunities for flexible work, etc.) that can sweeten the deal and translate into a happier employment experience. 
  10. Can you be successful? Never accept a job unless you are sure you can add value and be a strong player.   Look for opportunities that will allow you to shine.

Bottom line?  If you can answer “yes” to most of these questions, the long-term benefits of taking the position could very well outweigh the immediate salary set-back. But if the majority of your answers are “no”, and you have the financial flexibility to wait, your career may benefit from your holding out for a better fit.  And when all else fails, do a “gut-check” and listen to your intuition for guidance.

Nancy Collamer, M.S. is a career coach, author, and the founder of, and  She is the author of three electronic products; The Layoff Survival Guide, FlexJobs, and The Back to Work Toolkit: A Guide for Comeback Moms.

More from Nancy Collamer: 5 Job Search Lessons: Learned from the College Hunt

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  • this is so helpful and true. thanks

    Posted by ruby akua, 9 April 2010.