"Overqualified" Designer

oohay's picture

Any experienced designers out there have any advice or suggestions for an experienced designer seeking full-time work, who is very often told that they are "overqualified" and passed over?? Thanks for your help.

dezcom's picture

That may be a euphemism for, "we don't want to pay more than a few bucks an hour so we will get some kid who doesn't know better.'

oohay's picture

Thanks Chris and Joe.

Yes, I've heard this before. And I know it (and more) to be true.

I'm a past design studio Principal/Owner (of 16 years), and a past Design Instructor too; 20 years of national industry experience in total. But learning is, of course, continual.

What it's funnelled down to though, is that it is proven I'm dealing (largely) with people's (small town = small mind) perceived fear. So that's what I'm having to deal with. It's not easy. Only the courageous and curious ask questions.

But they eventually always prove to hire someone (and we're talking here about a full-time senior-level design position on staff ) who is "younger, cheaper, and mouldable."

Call it unwise management. Call it short-sighted thinking. Call it poor business. (All of the above are true.) Call it whatever you like or perceive yourself. But the fact is, I need full-time work. And I can't seem to get it. It's been a long time now. And I don't know what to do. I've tried everything. Any help is graciously appreciated.

hrant's picture

I don't know if somebody already pointed this out:
A big reason that employers avoid hiring overqualified applicants is that they use a "quick & easy" position to make some money before soon moving on to something better.

Have two versions of your resume: one full, one lite.


as8's picture

Good night, sorry for the off-topic :-)

oohay's picture

Thanks for the very useful and helpful words, Joe.

Yes, I've tried this. And I do communicate what you describe, right in my cover letter. Some (the real fearful ones) don't seem to "buy it." (Their fear is more powerful?) Others try to (and I can see this), then reneg. I've even had several false alarms (jobs offered), which I think were also due to this. Totally unprofessional indeed.

What I realize, of course, is that I myself cannot control someone elses fear, or chosen perception(s).

So I just try to do my best. But I've been doing "my best" for far too long now, and literally struggling to survive, when I shouldn't be. In fact, far from it. I never thought I'd be in this life, or career position. Ever.

And yes, what Hrant also indicates, has also come through from other employers.

dezcom's picture

Perhaps they fear you are just there to steal there clients and go back in business for yourself?
Did you say why you gave up your business?

oohay's picture

Thanks Chris. Yes, when asked by serious potential employers...I do confidentially address (both personally and pro) why I ultimately chose to "give up" my firm. Not all ask though. Only the daring. And I figure it's inappropriate (and defensive?) to address it before such time, as they bring it up, and/or need to know.

I'm open to all your ideas and suggestions; thanks so much. Times are *that* dire. And it's proven *that* hard for me to get on staff full-time anymore. And I desperately *need* to get work. So thanks all. Keep it coming, if you find anything you'd like to share.

Diner's picture

The internet is your buddy . . .

There are just too many e-lance websites that could keep you at home safely behind your Mac crankin' out work and making a decent buck from that.

Shaking hands is so 1.0 bro . . . :D

Seriously, the internet has significantly reduced the need to get out and press the flesh to get enough work to do.

I suspect most people looking to hire online freelancers would be inclined to hire you with your credentials, so put your portfolio online, bid on e-lance projects and start making some bread.

If you're that desperate and that good, it'll bring in some scratch till you get more steady recurrent business, anyhow you could always eBay your stuff :D

Good Luck! Now stop complaining and take some of this good advice people are throwing your way . . .

oohay's picture

Thanks alot for your time and input, Stuart. But it seems you just don't "get it". Sorry. And there are professional standards and ethics to consider...and keep. E-lance and such similar sites are *not* respected (far from it) or consider "kosher" in our neck-of-the-woods. And no professional can (or will) do work for that grossly cheap. People also don't hire freelancers online...they definitely don't here. Also, I've past freelanced, done contract, and even subcontract work for many years. I'm beyond that now. Somewhere else. Sorry if unclear? Back to the subject at hand...(not that I don't appreciate your time and objective input)...

Diner's picture

You wrote: Times are *that* dire. And it's proven *that* hard for me to get on staff full-time anymore. And I desperately *need* to get work.

So what does that mean???

If you're resigned to dismiss positions beneath your station in life, then no amount of advice will be of help to you . . .

Good Luck!

oohay's picture

Stuart...for some reason, you have missed the boat, again.

In no commentary herein, did I state that I'm "resigned to dismiss positions beneath your [my] station in life." In fact, I believe I made rather clear reference to the contrary, and in response/agreement with Joe, and his great feedback.

In fact, Stuart, I would do, and am willing, at this point, to a) work for 1/2 of what is my worth (and I do know what it is, and also teach students to learn/research/know their worth, and so they don't get ripped off; studio principals have to continually keep this in check too, and re upping rates/fees); but even that doesn't help. Further, I have applied for, and do apply for, b) positions which are below my level of capabilities. (If you have read the posts, I believe you will also see reference made to this.) Regardless, I have no need, inclination or desire to be defensive, or get involved in what reads to be an attack (for some unknown reason.)

Thank you for your input Stuart, but from here on, I think I may have to refrain from responding to you or addressing your flagrantly negative, unconstructive, demeaning, disrespectful, and off-topic commentary...and attacks...to what is (and I certainly hope comes across as) bare nakedly honest, humble, and honorable words, from an experienced professional and instructor, that I have chosen to share here (however annonymously; but is it "safe" here??), where I haven't anywhere else (for obvious reasons.) Thank you for your consideration.

oohay's picture

Unfortunately it wasn't "help", of any kind, Tiffany, no.

I believe E-Lance and the like were addressed, above. (And I don't want to get into an obviously easy critique and slam of e-lance here, as it's totally off-topic. Thanks.)

oohay's picture

More than agreed (re E-lance.)


oohay's picture

In reference to who's met who, and where, the comments that were made; tone and attitude, simply "speak for themselves." End of story.


Diner's picture

I have no personal agenda towards you Oohay, sincerely . . . I have no idea who you are nor am I familar with your position. . .

While the playful tone of my first response to this thread may have perhaps been unhelpful to you, it may have been helpful to other readers on this forum in your postion who share your concerns about how to bring in income while looking for more 'reasonable' employment opportunities.

It's not for me to judge you or your situation but I hate the idea of anybody coming to a public discussion forum asking for advice and refuting any suggestions offered . . .

You seem to already know what won't work and what you're not interested in, so what is it you do want to do to earn income in your position? It sounds like your basically running all over town with your resume and your book trying to get hired and nothing else in the meantime, so while e-lance doesn't interest you, what does?

I honestly do wish to help you earn some cash based on what you've written, but don't understand what is is you're willing to try . . .

Please be specific . . .
Stuart :D

oohay's picture


While I have little time (I'm job hunting, if you recall) or inclination to get into long, drawn out conversations, explanations and rationalizations (why would I? I simply don't have need to...) about fairly straight forward arenas and professional issues, that most experienced designers would know, I did want to respond in brief to your post.

First off, you indicate "nor am I familar with your position. . .", so perhaps it may be difficult for you to actually understand, and/or understand the position someone such as myself is in, and after so many years in the industry.

Secondly, there was no "playful tone" read or noted in any of your written coorespondence. Clearly this failed to come across, if indeed it was so. Further, there is more attitude noted in this passage, which is totally inappropriate and highly undeserved. Again, I can't allow time for this. It's just hard and painful enough as it is, if you know and can fathom what I mean.

Third, you indicate that "It's not for me to judge you or your situation", and yet it is clear from your words, tone and attitude deliverred, that you have unfortunately done exactly that. Perhaps consider reading your words again. You can't really blame someone else, for your own deliveries.

Fourth, not once was I found "refuting any suggestions offered". What I disliked, naturally, was/is being treated poorly on this discussion board. It is unacceptable, of course. Just as it would be for you, I would imagine. Yet further, your posts have been a horrific, cruel and inhuman (let alone unprofessional) way to talk to and treat someone, further when I had already previously outlined my (sad) position. I find *that* more sad. You have unfortunately made this board and unwelcome and unsafe place.

Fifth, regarding another presumption forwarded, I am hardly "running all over town with your resume and your book trying to get hired and nothing else", nor have I indicated such practices previously. It's also not how I operate, nor do any experienced professionals that I know and am aware of, across the country. It's simply not how it's done in the industry (here in Canada at least), which I can only imagine would be known to yourself, if you are an experienced designer yourself. I believe this was also highlighted and shared in previous posts above.

Sixth; pretty much any design professional knows the reputation and basically unethical nature of E-lance and the like. Frankly, I'm not even interested to discuss it, don't have the time, nor inclination, as indicated. This is also not the topic at hand. Feel free to discuss it amongst yourselves if you like (another thread perhaps?) It's a dead issue. No one in the professional industry here, or anyone that I know of in the industry across Canada, that is, NO ONE, uses E-lance. It's not even considered professional design.

In case it's unclear, I am having to focus all my time and energies on acquiring a full-time on-staff design position, because that is what I need. So really, I must get back to that now.

I hope this satisfies your present interest?? and need for more specifics regarding my situation.

Onwards now...and back to the job hunt here. I'm off for the day, at least, and perhaps permanently.

oohay's picture

As an added note, perhaps from the Instructor side of me, as well as business owner, and definitely from experience; ...similar Joe had said in agreement himself:

"E-lance, indeed. That's another topic. Being the cheapest (lowest bidder) is never a way to differentiate because someone can always do it for less."

Lowering design, industry, or business costs, standards and ethics is never a way to get noticed, differentiate, or to get work. We get known for what we do. You not only shoot yourself in the foot, but you shoot your fellow designer/peers in the foot, and you shoot the client in the foot, by misrepresenting the industry, and miseducating the client about who designers are, and what we do; and you perpetuate poor practices of design and business. Read; the business of design. And it has long term residual affect. This is what the AIGA and GDC are all about, improving the perception and understanding in the marketplace of what design is, and what it can do.

We are all responsible for our part, however big or small. (Remember folks, I teach this stuff.) When you rest your head on your pillow at night, do you feel good about what you do? And how you do it? And how you operate in the business of design? (whether you're running a business, freelancing, or on staff.) I do. And I can do that. And I always have. It's also why clients came to my firm.

It's called integrity.

Besides, no one can do work, let alone quality work, and survive, for the "lowballing" and undercutting that is the foundation of E-lance and the like. And professionals simply don't partake. But that is just common-knowledge.

Caio now. I'm off.

Chris Rugen's picture

"Yet further, your posts have been a horrific, cruel and inhuman (let alone unprofessional) way to talk to and treat someone, further when I had already previously outlined my (sad) position. I find *that* more sad. You have unfortunately made this board and unwelcome and unsafe place."

Wow. I didn't read this at all in Stuart's comments (and I've never met him). His statements were quick, aimed towards helping, and playfully suggesting that you try something online in order to pull together some $$. Plus, he was putting smileys all over the place.

Don't come knocking for advice if you don't want it. People here dispense help and sympathy, not pity. If you're angry or feeling trapped about the job market, don't let it get the better of you.

oohay's picture

Chris; Thanks, and/but no, I don't feel that either ("angry or feeling trapped about the job market, don't let it get the better of you.") Actually, I'm doing really well, considering what I have been through. And no, none of you are aware of that, nor do you have to be.

I asked for advice, yes, and hoped to be treated with respect and dignity...and professionalism. Simple.

I'm not interested in pity. I am interested in conversing with professionals, and this is why the Q was past posed.

As I believe I've already mentioned, I don't believe that anyone deserves that slander or name-calling. (Or the kind of negative and denegrating delivery, "Don't come knocking for advice if you don't want it." Consider that you never really know *whom* you are talking to.) I'm interested in more mature, professional and constructive exchange and pursuits. I've moved on now. Time is of the essence.

Thank you to those of you who did share well-meaning thoughts and advice, in a positive, kind and respectful way.

Best of luck folks.

hrant's picture

No need to be so uptight.


oohay's picture


Holy mackeral.

It's interesting; socially and psychologically, if nothing else. Like I said, it might be good to consider that you never know whom you're actually talking to. (i.e. it could be your boss, your next employer (it's a small town, and small world), or your next client...) Thanks for a grandoise presentation of the Typophile discussion board, folks. Too bad a few rotten apples have to spoil for the rest. Just read the posts. It's all there. A few of us (experienced design pros) here now are quite shocked. You've made the board unwelcome and unsafe for people. Sad.

Goodbye. And good luck.

It's Friday. And I'm off. Have a great weekend folks.

hrant's picture

You're right, I don't know you*, but since I do know Stuart (since 1998), and I've seen a lot of "action" on discussion lists, I don't even have to read every single thing in this thread (I didn't - my time is more valuable than yours) to be sufficiently sure that you're the problem here, assuming animosity when it's just not there, fanning the flames of misunderstanding, getting some kind of high by huffing and puffing. Either only hang out with people just like you, or fix it.

* Mostly because you've been too insecure to use your real name!

BTW, I've seen your sort of repeated fake-nice goodbye a hundred times: it's just an attempt at getting the last word. Well you want some advice? Here it goes: it doesn't friggin' matter how many times you deliver sugar-coated goodbyes and claim to leave; since you can't really leave (because you were never really here) know that the only way you can have the last word is "internally", and only by no longer reading after you say bye. And I'm pretty sure you're reading this.


welsh_dragon's picture

oohay, I odn't know any of you except by the posts in this thread.

My interpretation of your messages is that:
1) You're extremely uptight - well, you're out of work, why shouldn't you be.
2) You expound on your qualifications here, almost <??> to the extreme. If even a bit of that comes through in the interview, as I'm sure it will - then you're overqualified.
3) in summ - I see a very obvious 'oh poor me!' in almost every message you send.

Do you really think that anyone here has an agenda against 'poor little you'?? You've been offered some reasonable suggestions and have found ways to not only turn the suggestion down but to be critical of the very people who you asked for help.

I've found in my long lifetime that when I start thinking that the worlds against me it's time to take a real long hard look at me ... maybe you might want to consider that option.

Isaac's picture

Maybe he didn't know what these were for :D

dewitt's picture

What cracks me up, is that statements like

"While I have little time (I'm job hunting, if you recall) or inclination to get into long, drawn out conversations, explanations and rationalizations (why would I? I simply don't have need to...) about fairly straight forward arenas and professional issues"

are always followed by long, drawn out, rationalizations and explanations.

The part where Mr. Oohay says

"A few of us (experienced design pros) here now are quite shocked. You've made the board an unwelcome and unsafe place for people."

It makes it sound like he suddenly gathered design professionals in some room and pointed at the computer screen shouting "You see! Do you see now! Those so called Typophiles. I told you they were all awful, wicked people. Why the name itself makes them sound like some sort of sexual deviants. A plague on their house! A plague, I say."

Now can we get back to the part where we dork it up discussing the finer points of trapping?

Watch carefully as I do a trick called saying my piece and truthfully not saying any more, because it's silly to get provoked on an internet where it well may be an actual seven-year-old who keeps acting like he's in first grade (not just the grown men who like to do it).

dana's picture

Aside from his/her Canadian locale, little is known of oohay. So, perhaps I can offer a suggestion which will shed a bit of light on this situation.

As everyone knows, there is always a strike/work-stoppage going on somewhere in Canada. Some are a source of indeterminant amounts of frustration (e.g. the current National Hockey League situation

timd's picture

Aim higher
Lose the posturing

as8's picture

Arrnantam Oohay !

> Caio now. I'm off.

You flipped yo` fingers, it is 'ciao' -- from 'schiao'
old Latin for 'slave.' Is this of any help for you ?
'Caio' was maybe an old Latin male name.
I know 'diao' means the male genital organ in Chinese.

> No need to be so uptight.

I met Papaziano personally.
Then a few days ago, on the bus, I met Avedis,
he told me his name means something like 'good
news' & that he heard about Papaziano, cool.


aluminum's picture

Oohay...your comments to Stuart seem to indicate your ego is perhaps what's getting in the way of you getting hired.

Perhaps it's time for a career change.

Nick Shinn's picture

Peak earning years are in the mid 40s.
That's one thing all workers have to contend with.
The ad and design business is pretty rough -- it sucks youngsters dry and spits em out once their work loses its gauche trendiness.
Then there's the turmoil of social and technological change.
Right now, the •••• has been kicked out of the UK design business:


I'm sure it's the same in North America.
So, yes, always be on the lookout for a career/business move. Put a positive spin on it: consider it as changing horses, but moving in the same direction.

It's worked for me -- at least that's the way I look at it, although it would also be possible to say that my career has been a succession of failures (another name for "experience"). I started out in marketing, then went into advertising, then design, then type design. It's tough at first when you move, learning the ropes, not making as much, but it's always interesting.

At least that way you have a multi-wave pattern as an alternative to that one big "peak earning years" bell curve.

I don't think my experience is that unusual.

Joe Pemberton's picture

"Overqualified" could mean a couple things:

- The candidate is applying for a junior position, expecting a
senior rate.

- The candidate may have the right number of years
experience, but for whatever reason is not seen as skilled
enough for the job.

When that happens, I'd suggest the candidate ask for frank
feedback. Say something like, "For the sake of career
development, can you help me understand why it is you feel X, Y
or Z." Hopefullly you can ask that in a way that is not defensive,
but is honestly seeking constructive feedback. I think you'll find
people will provide honest feedback if you're sincere and aren't
still trying to convince them into something.

Joe Pemberton's picture


Speaking from direct experience, I recently interviewed a
designer who owned his own firm and was used to running the
show. Needless to say it was scary for me to even consider
having him come in. I wondered if he'd want to run MY show, or
if he'd have too strong of ideas about how projects should be run.

I can see how people interviewing you could be intimidated.

He totally put me at ease by saying he wanted to learn from our
process and was eager to collaborate with other designers -
whereas he'd been used to flying solo. This didn't undermine
his experience, but communicated that he's flexible and, as you
say, always learning.

Best of luck!

Miss Tiffany's picture

Oohay. Stuart was only trying to help.

Why do you feel e-lance wouldn't work? At least as a temporary thing?

Joe Pemberton's picture

Having met Stuart in person on serveral occasions, I'm
absolutely sure his comments are meant in the most
constructive way...

E-lance, indeed. That's another topic. Being the cheapest (lowest
bidder) is never a way to differentiate because someone can
always do it for less.

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