10 reasons not to take a step backward

There is a great deal of discussion on both LinkedIn and Facebook about higher level personnel taking a step backward just to have a job. I strongly advise against taking a backward step in title or salary for a variety of reasons, some of which I’ve listed below.

1). It isn’t necessary. There are plenty of jobs out there. They just take some digging and, especially, working the network. You may also have to “spin” your career a bit differently.

2). It probably doesn’t work. The hiring authority will simply assume that you’ll move as soon as something at your previous level comes along or the economy recovers (as it seems to be doing). They’re probably right.

3). Your competition is greater. People who are desperate for a job aren’t necessarily using logic. If you apply for a lower level job you are competing against.
a). Other “overqualified” people who have the same idea as you do.
b). Everyone who is actually at that level who is qualified for the job.
c). Other people who are trying to move up into that job.

Stick at your own level (or higher). It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is actually easier to find a job if you do so.

3). It will be difficult to climb back up after a “demotion.” Titles on résumés are important. If you take a step backward, it is going to be difficult to attain your former level of responsibility. If you take a large salary step backward (though a small one may be necessary), you will find it very difficult to attain the salary level again and perhaps lose millions in your remaining working years.

4). You’ll be bored. If you’ve been a CEO, you aren’t going to be happy as barista at Starbucks. Even if the jump isn’t so drastic as that, you simply are likely to be very bored doing a job which does not utilize the talents and skills that you have attained over the years.

5). It keeps you from looking for something at your level. Finding a job takes time and effort. It is hard to expend that time and effort when you’ve just worked a 60 hour week at a mind-numbing job – much less make the necessary number of networking meetings and interviews to get a new job.

6). You may not be able to support yourself long term. While there are some who live frugally and put most of their money into investments, most of us live at the level of our paychecks. Taking a lower-level job means a lesser salary. If you’re subsidizing that monthly by dipping into savings and investments, it is a poor decision.

7). You aren’t going to like working for people who aren’t as bright as you are. Let’s face it. Attaining an executive position requires a few working brain cells. Most of the time, when you take a lower level position, you’re not working for people who are as bright or as skilled as you are.

8). You’ll get in trouble. Do you really think that you’ll keep your mouth shut when the boss is doing something incredibly stupid that you’ve handled a thousand times? Of course you won’t. You’re going to be you. And this means that you will try to solve problems, manage people and do a fantastic job. All of these things can get you fired at a lower-level job.

9). It can lead to depression. Most of us take a great deal of our identity from what we do for a living, right or wrong. While we may think that any job is better than no job, this usually proves not to be the case. Many people feel less worthy working at a lower level than that which they had attained.

10). You may be the first to go in a layoff. Since they don’t think you’ll stick around once the economy improves anyway, you may well be at the top of the layoff list. Do you really want to go through that again?

There are a few good reasons for taking what looks like a step backward, which I’ll cover in my next column. But just doing so in order to have a job is not a good idea unless you’re about to go into foreclosure or have the heat turned off. Even then, there are often other solutions that don’t have the career wrecking potential of a backward step.
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