Hired! Turning a demotion into a promotion

In today's job market, overqualified candidates may be at an advantage - if they know how to work the system.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Mark Heinemann, here with his wife and two children, says getting laid off was a blessing.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Lower pay. Less responsibility. It's a step down, but for some determined workers, it could be a stepping stone to a better career.

As an information technology professional with 15 years experience in the health care industry in Cape Coral, Fla., Mark Heinemann, 37, thought he was sheltered from layoffs -- but that wasn't the case.

He received his pink slip along with 12 others last October, the day he returned from his honeymoon.

Now he's one of the few that is already employed again.

With a wife, two kids and a mortgage, Heinemann needed to find a job quickly. "I did something I wouldn't have ever done if I wasn't desperate," he said.

Heinemann applied for jobs all across Florida that he was overqualified for.

When the IT manager at Internal Medicine Associates of Lee County -- just 15 minutes from Heinemann's home -- received his résumé, he saw potential.

The firm had been looking for a network technician and had hired someone with a less advanced skill set who didn't work out. But a candidate with Heinemann's experience could save the department money, they thought.

Heinemann could not only perform the job he was hired for, but also more advanced projects, which were usually left to costly consultants.

He was ultimately hired in February as a network engineer, a step up from the position they had advertised for.

While Heinemann took a small pay cut at the outset, he was awarded with a $10,000 raise after three months.

His title and salary are now equal to what he was making at his old job, plus he says he's happier than he was before.

"I guess in the end getting laid off was a blessing," he said.

One step forward, two steps back

According to our career experts, job seekers will have more luck by expanding their target market to include positions that require less skills and expertise.

Being overqualified worked to Heinemann's advantage, which can be the case for many other experienced job seekers in today's market as well.

"The company is getting a better employee at a bargain rate," said Kathy Fahrman, vice president of Résumés by Professionals in Tampa, Fla.

Employers may be concerned, however, that overqualified employees will get bored and complacent, or use the position as a temporary solution until something better comes along.

Our career experts recommend addressing those concerns in a cover letter. "One of the things that [Heinemann] did well was pre-empted any concerns the employer would have about being overqualified by addressing it up front," according to said Gail Frank, owner of Frankly Speaking: Résumés that Work in Tampa, Fla.

For others willing to take a cut in pay and title if it means getting a job, Fahrman suggests expressing that right off the bat. "Say, 'I have 20 years experience, but I'm willing to start at a lesser position, prove my worth and advance within the company,' so they know it's not a temporary stop over for you," she said.

According to the experts, taking a demotion makes the most sense when there is clear upward mobility at the company or the possibility of negotiating a raise or promotion after an initial probationary period.

Read updates on the people previously profiled in Hired! Join the Hired! group on Facebook.

Have you found a job recently? We want to hear from you. Send us an email and attach a photo. Tell us where you got hired and how you landed the job and you could be profiled in an upcoming story on CNNMoney.com. For the CNNMoney.com Comment Policy, click here.  To top of page

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