In a Down Economy, Overqualification Is a Killer
Despite multiple degrees and plenty of experience, Kayla Yvonne Calkin is struggling to find a job.
Kayla Yvonne Calkin has accomplished more at age 25 than some people have in an entire lifetime.
In 2007, she graduated from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in political science and women’s studies with a notable academic distinction her first year. In May, she completed a master’s degree program in public policy with a concentration in women’s studies at George Washington University.
Before that, she worked on numerous political campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2007. She spent a stint in South Africa teaching HIV prevention, was awarded a graduate teaching fellowship at George Washington in 2006 and on and on and on.
Now, Calkin is a full-time nanny in Washington, D.C.
“I know the families in the area, I just do whatever they want,” she said in a phone interview.
She began applying for policy writing jobs and jobs at women’s rights organizations during her spring break in March. Since then, she’s sent out over 75 job applications, written over 40 cover letters, has had 12 interviews and zero job offers.
Her plan was sound and typical of someone gunning for a career in politics in her mid-20s: Get the necessary experience, get the degrees, take some time off to work, go to law school.
Though, the “time off to work” portion is becoming too much time off and not enough work.
“I thought I’d want the year off to work and chill out, but I just really want to go back to school right now,” she said.
Despite her experience, accolades and qualifications, she’s being asked to interview for entry-level positions for which she is vastly overqualified. These interviews work against her, and often she is faced with the ironic situation of having a too-impressive resume.
“I’m like, ‘I know! Just hire me! I need a job!’ ” she said with a laugh. “I guess I’m overqualified to work on Capitol Hill, but I’m not overqualified to watch 1-year-olds play in a playground.”
Calkin gets it. People aren’t leaving plum jobs these days, she said. For now, she’s applying to the Barack Obama re-elction campaign. It’s not her first choice; she’s already gone the campaign route. But she is forced to reevaluate her options.
“The point I’m at now, if I go [in fall 2012], I’m not going to be 29 until I graduate. If I go in 2013 I’m not going to be 30 until I graduate from law school," she said.
She paints a dire picture of what her future could be.
“I’m going to be 30, graduating with no money and all this debt and no job and I have no idea what the economy is going to be like in four years,” she said. “It’s a scary proposition.”
There’s an underlying optimism to Calkin’s words, though. She said she loves being in school, and it’s not the idea that she’ll finally be finished with school in her 30s that brings her down, but the uncertainty of it all.
For now, she’ll continue to do odd jobs, study for the LSATs and stay the course as far as jobs go. She makes ends meet, and she said she got some money for graduation, which has gone a long way.
For her, and many others, despite a past dotted with hard work and accomplishments, the future remains a total blank slate.
“It’s scary, it’s a scary time,” she said.