Should I lie about my qualifications?

Dear Aunty,

I have a big problem finding decent, challenging work in Zambia.

I opted not to do my doctorate (even though I was offered a partial scholarship). I returned with a masters architectural degree in 2010 at age 23. I thought that by now I might be in a senior or managerial position, as most employees and employers do not usually have postgraduate degrees. But it seems there is a lot of PHD (Pull Him Down) mentality and those in good positions do not want a young and unmarried professional who is more qualified than them to work under them, for fear of me possibly taking their job soon. Jobs in newspapers seem to be just for formality with a candidate they want already selected before advertising the position.

Should I start lying about my qualifications or focus on leaving the country? I am thankful that I am not jobless, but I need a way to move upwards. With my current salary, if I took a university loan it would take me over 50 years to pay it back. It is just too low a salary for the money spent at university and quality of life it offers.

Aunty replies,

Unfortunately your situation is not uncommon. There are many young people with excellent academic qualifications, not only in Zambia, but all over the world struggling to find challenging employment. If you are seriously thinking of leaving Zambia you will need to carefully consider where you can go where you will not face similar challenges.

It is not clear from your letter what type of senior managerial position you are seeking. We know from your letter that you graduated in 2010 – so you could have between 2 to 3 years post-graduate work experience. Is this sufficient experience to gain a senior management role?

The answer to this question probably depends on the industry in which you would like to obtain a senior management role. Architects are responsible for planning, designing and overseeing the construction of products, buildings and other such projects. A senior manager in this industry will therefore be required to not only have excellent academic qualifications, but also to have built up lots of post-graduate experience – as well as holding membership of a professional body (such as the Zambia Institute of Architects).

What feedback have you received from employers when applying for senior management positions? Are they stating that you are overqualified for the positions for which you are applying? Perhaps they seeking candidates with more post-graduate experience? If so, then unfortunately the only way for you to improve on the situation is to put in the days, months and years (!) of hard work to build up that experience. If you genuinely think that employers may be feeling threatened by your post-graduate qualification then you will have to tailor your approach to applications and interviews in the future – although we would not suggest that you go as far to lie about your post-graduate qualification. Try to ensure that there is no sense of entitlement, superiority or threat (however unintentional) as this could be enough to put off a potential employer. This could mean revising any statements that you make regarding your professional ambitions. For example, do not tell the interviewer that in 18 months time you want his job as this will probably not go down too well.

One final point to consider is whether you could ask for more responsibility within your current role. This would allow you to gain additional experience and to undertake more challenging work. If you have not already done so, you could try putting forward a business case outlining the reasons why your current employer may want to consider giving you additional responsibilities and more challenging work.

You are clearly intelligent and eager for more responsibility and these are highly desirable qualities for forward thinking organisations. I suggest that you consider the information above and think hard about what you want to do.

I hope also that a few of our community will be also be able to offer you advice and insight from their own experiences.

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What are your views on this dilemma? Should he leave and take his dream job? You can share your comments below.

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