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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Overeducation, Interview Attire and Workplace Romances

Q: I am a 44-year-old woman with two master's degrees and I am expecting another degree from an Ivy League graduate school this month.

It doesn't seem to matter to employers what experience I have; they don't want to hire people who have more education than themselves. I bury my education at the bottom of my resume and have different resumes and cover letters for different positions that I apply for.

I am interviewed by people who are much less educated than I am and they do not know what I'm talking about; they are inarticulate and unprofessional; and they are often jealous of my education and appearance. (I happen to look much younger than my age and am considered to be an attractive woman.)

I have applied for approximately 100 positions in the area of training and development during the past five years and I have not been offered one position. I spoke with a career management specialist, who said a degree in education can help an employer recognize skills in training, curriculum development, administration, and motivational talents. He also said he regards the doctorate as a definite advantage in the job market. I can tell you from my many experiences that it is definitely a disadvantage in the corporate world. I have been offered fewer positions with every degree earned.

---Tired of stupid people

Sue Says: Your signature reveals a lot about your attitude, which may be contributing to your inability to find a job. If you reread your letter, you will notice how judgmental you tend to be of the people who are interviewing you. Is it possible that they sense your feeling of superiority?

While I don't doubt that your degrees contribute to your problem, there are many well-educated people who are able to find work in the fields of their choice. It is possible that it isn't only your degrees that are in the way, but something less tangible--- perhaps in your demeanor or attitude. Consider working with a career counselor for an objective opinion.

Q: I am a paralegal and I have been with one company for almost eight years. I am looking for a new position and have started to prepare for job interviews. Do you think it is appropriate for a woman to wear a business pantsuit instead of a skirt? Do you have any other comments on dressing for interviews?


Sue Says: Before the interview, check out the culture of the organization. What you wear should be appropriate to the industry in which you are interviewing. If it is conservative, then you should opt for a traditional suit with a skirt. If the atmosphere is more relaxed or has a casual dress policy, then a pantsuit is a good choice. The pantsuit is becoming a business basic, but has not yet replaced the suit with a skirt as the most formal of the many clothing choices women have in business.

When going on an interview, wear simple, classic clothing in neutral colors--nothing too trendy or unusual. A suit is always a good choice for both men and women.

Q: I am getting signals from a coworker that makes me think she is interested in me. Our employer doesn't have any rules prohibiting dating between employees. I am looking for an unbiased opinion on whether I should pursue this further.


Sue Says: Assuming you both are single and available, you have nothing to lose by asking her out. However, I am sure people who have been involved in an office romance are in a better position to advise you on some of the challenges involved. I'd like to invite others to respond and I will share the responses in another column.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
For more Ask Sue articles, click here.

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