When I was a child, after my father retired, I started to hear a term I didn’t quite understand. “You are overqualified.”

I didn’t quite get what it meant; all I knew was it made my parents sad. After my father retired and tried to job hunt, he quickly realised aside from the government that he worked for, even the UN agencies turned him away. He initially didn’t understand why until an insider friend told him, in his mid-fifties, with over three decades of work experience, he was too valuable, no one could afford, or those who could afford him chose not to take on paying him.

I am in my late thirties now, and as I inch towards two decades of work experience in my field, I am beginning to notice trends in job opportunities. The work scope listed fits my profile, but the years of experience required to match this work scope make no sense.

So here is an example of a work scope for someone required to have atleast 3 – 5 years of experience.

  • Management of the communication department procurement and marketing
  • Develop and implement a corporate communication strategy
  • Develop countrywide communication work plans
  • Monitor, measure and analyse media trends and build relationships with local and regional media houses.
  • Train staff on the use and modalities of internal and external organisational communications
  • Develop and implement a partnership engagement strategy

For anyone in the communication field, you can already see this is an executive communication role; unless you worked in a smaller organisation that allowed you this level of responsibility, this is a position for someone with atleast seven years of experience.

But the ask is for people with less than half the years of experience for this level of work. When I got back from working in Tanzania, I noticed this trend on job postings and sites.

I thought I was losing my mind until after several conversations with peers echoed my sentiments. The market wants younger people with less experience because they are cheaper. That’s the truth. I say this not with bitterness but as a realisation.

Executives in most medium enterprises in Kenya earn an average gross monthly salary ranging from 150 – 300,000 Kenya shillings (USD 1500 -3000). If you worked at a multinational or as an expatriate where middle management earns 500,000 Kenya Shillings  (USD 5,000) per month, you see the problem begins there.

Your experience and what you offer is invaluable, but what does that mean for organisations growing? Naturally, organisations will go for cheaper and deal with the growing pains of a learning executive with a good level of experience but not as grand as yours.

Now, I can rant about why not pay experienced people their worth, but as my cousin said, “you are pitching your value to the wrong organisations.” That’s the reality.

I believe there is enough to go around for everyone; it is just a matter of positioning yourself. And that may mean leaving your area of comfort and realising that the pond shrunk, and now it’s time to plunge into the ocean of mega opportunities.

I chose to not succumb to the “you are too qualified” statement, where I am invaluable and perceived as a threat. Instead, I decided to build a space and ecosystem where I am invaluable and sought after.