When Taking a Step Back is a Step Forward in Your Job Search


If you’ve been consistently building your career and rising in rank over the course of a few years, you will most likely have your mind set on obtaining an equal or higher level job title when faced with searching for a new job. Without question, most everyone wants to keep growing, reaching new career pinnacles and earning more money. But is holding steadfastly to a desired title or increased level of responsibility your best approach?

Not always.

Of course you want to be recognized for the experience you bring to the table, and it’s tempting to hold out for the job status that rewards you for your hard work and level of expertise. However, it doesn’t always pay to keep waiting and let other opportunities pass you by. It may be more important to your ego goals to accept only a role or title that you believe you are worthy of.

Multiple factors impact your choice to bide your time for the right title or step back into a lower-level role. How do you decide?

How urgent is your need to find a new job? If you’re existing job is causing undue stress or conflicts, it may be important to consider roles you may not have otherwise pursued. A bad boss, a toxic environment, an overwhelming work load, and not being compensated fairly are all reasons that may affect your need to secure new employment sooner rather than later.

Financial circumstances are another reason to abandon a search for a better title and settle for another role. If you are unemployed and running out of financial fuel, you may need to expand your job search criteria to multiple levels in your field, but that’s not all bad. Stepping back also has advantages:

  • You will know how to do the work easily, giving you a chance to shine immediately and rise again in a new organization.
  • You can focus on simply doing good work rather than feeding your ego, which might be a surprisingly welcome relief.
  • Less pressure, means more time to continue your job search on the side and keep looking for jobs that meet your job responsibility and title objectives.

There may be other times you want to consider a drop in the organizational hierarchy. For example, a targeted company may have such a stellar culture or reputation that stepping into a position at a lesser level may be your best bet for the long term.

You may have to work a little harder to convince recruiters that you will be happy working at a different level. There seems to be a perception that high-level leaders won’t be satisfied if that can’t retain their ability to lead a pack, which is not always true. You will need to sell your desire to contribute, regardless of the title, over your need for status. And isn’t that a great quality for any leader? Less ego, more team collaboration and credit.

The most pressing question anyone has when making such a career pivot is: Will is hurt my career? Not if you position it the right way. If, for instance, you are unemployed, it is far better to have a job, even if it’s not your dream job, than it is to have an extensive period without employment. Recruiters are not keen on long stretches of career gaps.


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