Most recently, Williams, who lives in Arlington, spent eight years at a director-level regulatory affairs and compliance job at an industry trade association in the District. Now she’s applying for a variety of jobs in government relations, legislative and public affairs, and communications and public relations. Some were “two steps below me. I would have taken them, and done them happily,” said Williams, who describes herself as “over 50.”
Such is the world of the overqualified and underemployed, where a 25-year-old and a 55-year-old both feel they’re stuck with work that doesn’t measure up to their credentials.
Some 54 percent of adults who lost a job in the recession and landed another consider themselves overqualified for their current job, compared with 36 percent of other workers, according to a 2010 Pew Social Research survey. Half of the young adults ages 18 to 34 have taken a job they didn’t really want to pay the bills, and one-fourth have moved back in with their parents, according to a separate Pew Research Center survey in 2012 titled “Young, Underemployed and Optimistic.”
“There’s an overqualified epidemic, unfortunately,” said Joan Freeman, director of McLean-based Gray Matters Coalition, which advocates for older workers. She said she sees it as a form of age discrimination, or a way to avoid hiring someone who could step up and steal away a younger manager’s job.
What’s unusual now is that people from both ends of the spectrum find themselves in the dilemma now. Some graduates from last year are still working in hourly jobs they expected to leave behind, and their colleague might be as old as their parents or even grandparents.
There were 8.1 million people working part-time when they would prefer full-time work in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Yet younger people are more optimistic about their future possibilities. Some 57 percent say they don’t earn enough now but believe they will in the future, versus 22 percent of those ages 35 to 64, according to the Pew research. The gap is reversed with more older people saying they don’t earn enough now and won’t in the future.
Freeman hears from people who were downsized from middle manager and senior manager jobs and cannot find a job at all, or one that is close to their previous one. Overqualified may mean many things — from a human resources manager’s concern that the new hire will move on as soon as she can to an expectation that she will be dissatisfied with less money.