Career Downgrades


by Karen Kodzik

One of the greatest fears for my job seeker clients is that they will “settle.” Settling could mean taking a job for less pay, at a lower professional level, or doing something they don’t enjoy. However, job searches have been the longest we have seen in decades, and job seekers are running out of severance, unemployment benefits, savings, and time…..so what should you think about when looking at the possibility of a career downgrade?

 

Downgrades are a good idea when…

  • You want to get your foot into a new industry. Some industries draw talent primarily from within the industry. The medical device industry is an example of this. Taking a job that allows you to break into a new industry would be a good reason to consider a downgrade.
     
  • The job helps you get your foot in the door of a desired company. There are some companies in town that many people would like to work for but it is extremely difficult to get in. A career downgrade may make sense in this case.
     
  • The job gives you a chance to learn a new skill or broadens your existing skill set. Taking a lesser job that allows for an opportunity to learn something new like project management or Six Sigma can ultimately help strengthen your career path.
     
  • The job intentionally diversifies your experience. If you have been with the same company 15-20 years, a career downgrade to get experience with another company may be helpful to demonstrate that you can adapt to a new way of doing things and a new culture.
     
  • You are a career changer. Starting off on a lower rung of the professional ladder may be expected for people who enter a whole new career. As you gain experience, you will climb quickly.

 

Things to be careful of…

  • Resetting yourself in the job market at a lower compensation level. If you take a job at a lesser salary, you may never earn the salary you were earning at your old job. It may make it more difficult to get jobs at or above your original salary.
     
  • The employer may not recognize your full skill set. For example, if you were previously a manager and you downgraded to a non-managerial job, your skills, talents, and potential could go unrecognized, and you could be underutilized.
     
  • You may be viewed as overqualified or too expensive. Attempting to secure a job at a lower level is not easy because prospective employers fear you will leave if presented with an opportunity at your current level.
     
  • Accepting a job that will be difficult to explain on your resume in the event you are in transition again. When considering a career downgrade, be prepared to explain it. Looking like you took a job out of desperation is often not attractive to future employers. It makes it seem like you are not fully managing your career.

 

Karen Kodzik, a career management consultant and founder of Cultivating Careers, holds a Master’s degree with an emphasis in Career Development and has worked with professionals in transition for over 13 years. She has worked inside of Fortune 500 companies, a global consulting firm, higher education, and a non-profit organization. She has coached and consulted various levels of professionals across industries throughout the country.

 

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