Ask LH: How Can I Reboot My Career?

Ask LH: How Can I Reboot My Career?
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Dear Lifehacker, I’m 28 and moved over to Australia from New Zealand in 2010. Since moving over I’ve worked in retail, a job initially intended as an interim position. I have been unable to get a job more suited to my qualifications.

I graduated in 2007 with a bachelor degree in marketing and communications as well as a post-graduate diploma in marketing. I have never really used my education in any position I have had since graduating, and am finding it extremely difficult to get any worthwhile offer. How do I get my career back on track? Thanks, Over-Qualified

Job seeker picture from Shutterstock

Dear OQ,

It sounds like you need to adjust your expectations and consider an entry-level job in the field you want to work in. A qualification means very little if you have no relevant work experience — especially if you received your degree years ago and have nothing to show for it.

Whether fairly or unjustly, most potential employers are going to judge you for those “wasted” years. You can give all the excuses in the world, but at the very least they’ll probably think you lack drive and hunger. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of eager, fresh-faced graduates vying for the same position without any of this extra baggage.

It’s not all doom-and-gloom though. A friend of mine decided to embark on a journalism career a good five or six years after he had received his communications degree. Prior to that he’d mainly worked night shifts at a hotel. He now edits two major publications for ACP Magazines. Below is some advice that he gave to a previous reader which I feel is also relevant here:

I wasn’t getting anywhere by sending my CV to everyone and replying to job ads, so I decided to up the ante. I went down to my local newsagent with a pen and paper and wrote down the email address of almost every magazine editor and publisher I could find and then went home and emailed them all saying that I’ll work for free. A magazine at ACP decided to take me up on it, and after a while started paying me. Seven years later, I’m running a mag of my own. If they don’t let you in the front door, you’ve gotta try and climb in a window.

The key is to keep persevering and not be too precious about where you start on the ladder. Good luck!

If there are any readers working in marketing here, feel free to dispense some advice for OQ in the comments section below.


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  • Holy crap I could have written that. For a moment I though I HAD written that. Except I was 27 when I moved over. First off you made the right choice, there is so much opportunity here that just does not exist in New Zealand. Yes you are up against more people, but at least the jobs are there to apply for.

    Here is what I did, I took a job at a terrible small business working for a guy with a big ego. I did no actual work, I was in the office simply for the owner to introduce me as his marketing manager. But I used this time to read and study. I also started freelancing, learning to sell yourself to a client really helps with the interview skills. After 12 months I applied for a real marketing manger role and got it.

    If there is anyway we can actually get in touch I would be happy to talk to you about some of the things I tried, what worked and what failed. A lot failed. My first year here sucked. But it has been worth the struggle.

  • I’m in a similar position, I have a bachelor degree in political science and criminology, and desperately want to get into policy development/research. I graduated mid 2012, and unable to get a job I have continued on with my partially complete law degree despite not really having any career aspirations in the field, only interest. I’ve applied for lower band jobs, but always get told I’m “too qualified”. Also, in this situation working for free isn’t an option as there are very few volunteer/intern based roles available here. It sucks.

    • I’m sure one of the policy institutes would be happy for a free intern (you’re offering to work for free so whats to lose for them?) for a month or two – which would lengthen your resume productively even if that institute doesn’t offer you a paid role in the end.

      • They absolutely would, unfortunately, in Tasmania where I live, opportunities and institutions like that are very very limited. Plus it wouldn’t be feasible for me to relocate for a role that doesn’t pay.

        • That does limit the options a bit, but maybe a forestry action group (either side of the debate)?

  • I came into my career through an unlikely door – similar degree to you I now work in government doing all sort of marketing and promotional work… never expected to but it is a great career and something to look at… again start at the entry level – look for opportunities to get in (volunteer or do work experience…)

  • Start at the ground floor and if you are genuinely over-qualified (ie not just that you have a few extra letters after your name, you actually know more – big difference!), you will progress quickly enough.

  • I was recently unemployed and volunteering and some of the girls I was volunteering with were studying marketing/business/some stuff and they were volunteering to get some good references and experience on to their resumes. One of them moved to Sydney and works for a major perfume distribution company, the other is doing media. So maybe try your local charity, I’m sure they always need help with marketing and communications, yes it’s free but hopefully flexible, it’s a great challenge as you have to do a lot with very little money and it’s for a good cause. Another thing is to start a blog/website about things you’re passionate about and sell yourself and your passions that way. I think these media jobs are more about what you can do and how as opposed to who has paid you for this and that.

  • omg … I thought I would be the only one like that.
    I’m 28, hold a bachelor’s degree in business commerce (which I never used) and a diploma of IT (could never find a job)
    I moved to Australia thinking that I would probably have more chances ….. I think I have many disadvantages like English is my second language, I have very little local experiece, no relevant experience in my field and I’m a temporary resident …
    Nothing seems to be enough

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