It’s easy to conclude that taking a lower-level position means putting the brakes on the career track or even taking a step back, but in fact, there can be a lot to gain in such a decision. Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward in your career. There are a number of practical reasons to why taking a lower position makes sense.
Career Changers: A large percentage of individuals changing careers will face the need to start near the beginning with entry level workers. If you make a drastic career change, such as going from ER nursing to accounting on the CPA track, you can’t expect an opportunity to jump right to the top until you have honed skills and subject matter expertise. Of course, if you have transferable skills from a previous career that may help to secure an opportunity above entry level.
Field of Practice Changers: There are many people who choose to stay in their profession, but make a change in their field of practice. For example, you may have started your career in marketing for the travel industry, but decided to switch gears to the pharmaceutical industry. A lateral move may not always be possible because, like the career changer, you may not have the necessary industry knowledge needed in the field, especially if it is a highly specialized sector. For instance, technical language used to market pharmaceuticals in the United States follow strict guidelines approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The approaches taken to marketing may be drastically different between two fields.
Job Changers: Job changers include individuals who want to make a switch in the type of company or organization they work for. Certainly, working for a non-profit is not the same as corporate and going from an agency to an in-house position has its differences. So, while you may take a lower position, the title and associated responsibilities may vary widely between employers – and it is important to consider the experiences and opportunities available with the open position. For instance, you may go from an agency to an in-house position at a lower level. Expectations for formal promotions also may vary given different corporate cultures involved. Essentially, you may start off in what is perceived as a lower position, but you wind up with far more advanced experiences that you might otherwise have.
The (Extended) Unemployed Candidate: The difficult economy has resulted in a large pool of unemployed individuals who are well-educated and qualified for positions. Under such circumstances, it’s not rare if you’ve been unemployed for over a year. There have simply been more qualified candidates than job openings available. So, it may come to a point where you have to make the decision to take a lower position in order to: a) bring home a paycheck to pay for essentials, b) maintain your marketability (after such an extensive period of unemployment, it may be a greater setback to remain unemployed – your marketability withers with time away from the market) and/or c) help secure a better job opportunity down the track (employers typically favor candidates who are already employed).
Regardless of the situation, here are key questions you should ask yourself to help decide whether taking a lower position is the right move for you and your career.
- Does this type of job fit into my long-term career goal? Essentially, will it get me where I want to be down the road?
- After taking this position and settling in, if I go back on the job hunting track, will I be able to communicate to a potential employer how the experience has helped me grow and evolve to be prepared for this next position?
- Do I believe I can excel in the position and create realistic opportunity to advance within the company?
- Will I be happier with the position? Most people spend a large part their life working, so it is important to be happy with what you do. Be wary of how dissatisfaction with a job can quickly lead to burnout.
If you answered yes to the questions above and can put your ego aside, making the decision to take a lower position can be a rational move to help steer your career forward. You can expect to be happier with life and your career. However, after taking a lower position, you need to maintain perspective on your reasons for the decision. It is easy to let pride get in the way of things. Remember this decision is based on a long-term plan, not a short-term plan for your career.