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"Survivor Demotion"


When a Lower Level Job is Preferable to Layoff?  

This was the openning to a newsletter I get from Alan L. Sklover Employment Attorney and Career Strategist.  His newsletters carry in my opinion great articles and generic legal precedents (mieage may be different in your state).

His thesis simply is it may be more intelligent (especailly for those over 50) to think in terms of being employed, even as a lesser job, than not.

What do you think?


The entire article is here:


Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

Performing a lower level job may make sense in the short-run, especially to prepare you for bad times to come or get you motivated to look for a new position.

However, make no mistake, you will feel a loss of control and frustration, when you see some one with a job at your approriate level, make an error that you would have avoided.

Do not continue to perform the job for a long period of time, or in essence you will be resetting your career, i.e. a new normal.

Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

Not only is weighing the short and long term implications important, but another important consideration is the likelihood of finding work in that industry and locale anytime soon.

I think that most organizations are always looking for top talent. Stepping in a pay grade (or two or three) lower may give you a great chance to get in and show your true value in another role or area of an organization you already know. This gives you a fresh chance to be what Stephen Covey called a "Trim Tab" - the small rudder that moves the big rudder that moves the whole ship. "Proactivity" in your "Circle of Influence" and "Trim Tabbing" should pave the way for recognition in the new unit, and hopefully a promotion later.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I agree with both Regis and Mike. It's very difficult to do a job way beneath where you have been (unless its your business OR you are very acclimated to small business).

Finding work as you get more experience (I don't like to say "older") is getting more difficult as companies want the world for nothing and the less experienced can work for less.

However, I'm not sold on Mike's "Trim Tab" theory (maybe because I've always worked in the SMB sector). I have found that often times you are pigeon holed and that's where you'll stay until you jump ship and move up. This statement may be more correct if I say you can move up, but not with the degree of pay increases you'd get by jumping ship.

Topic Expert
Linda Wright
Title: Consultant
Company: Wright Consulting
(Consultant, Wright Consulting) |

I agree with Wayne on the "trim tab" theory. Often the hiring manager views the move suspiciously even as he or she benefits from the under priced talent.

david waltz
Title: Assistant Treasurer
Company: Integrys Energy Group
(Assistant Treasurer, Integrys Energy Group) |

From the comments I had originally inferred that this was about taking a position at a new company, yet after reading the link it was about taking a lower-level role at the current company.

Going down a rung or two is risky, as there is no guarantee that you will be able to climb back up, and everyday you remain in the role the more the likelihood increases that you will be pigeon-holed at that level (even by other firms who might contemplate hiring you). People think "he went down for a reason", and the reason they imagine is never a good one, but usually a variation of "they couldn't hack it at that level".

That being said, in a slow-growth economy where another job is uncertain, combined with a lot of kids that need to get through college, or bills to pay, or older family members to support, etc. taking a lower level role vs. no job at all in a tough job market might become a "no-brainer".

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Why it makes sense to stay in the driver's seat of your career so you can be responsive and stay on a smooth career track vs. having to be reactive to situations like this.

It is interesting to me that even senior executives, and especially risk-averse senior finance executives ... those who run $M and $B companies with strategy, foresight, and a clear plan ... put so little time into translating that same longer-term thought and execution to the one thing that drives every thing else in their lives: their careers.

I'm not sure there has ever been a more challenging time to risk "losing" a job without having another job lined up. Finance executives ARE in demand. They will ALWAYS be in demand. But there are lots of EMPLOYED executives to poach, and that is the recruiter game plan.

Taking a lower position vs. being unemployed is really just the lesser of two evils. Both situations can be difficult to overcome, not impossible but definitely more challenging. In either case, a solid network is critically important.

Donald Koscheka
Title: Principal
Company: Bluecloud Communications
(Principal, Bluecloud Communications) |

I had a positive experience with this 'jump back' strategy - as a marketing director at a large software company, I chose to take on a technical role - designing and building web sites for the marketing department. This meant giving up management responsibilities and focusing on refining my technical skills.

The goal of the jump back was to make myself more marketable outside the firm, not to try to advance within the firm (in this particulary company, jump back was the career kiss-of-death). The strategy worked because I found myself fully employed during the recession and have since gone on to start my own company which my increased technical skills gave me the confidence to do.

Charles Schrock
Title: SVP
Company: Inland Bank and Trust
(SVP, Inland Bank and Trust) |

As a number of these responses indicated - yes it may be a good idea ... or it may not. It depends on the circumstances including things like access to health insurance, # of years to pension benefits, willingness or ability to become entrepreneurial, and many others. As Donald described above, moving into a 'lesser role' is not necessarily moving backward. Similarly, I've known people who appeared to move from a more senior operations role into a sales support role for awhile with the full knowledge that they were simply rounding out their skill set. To me, the real issue is the understanding that you, given the current facts, are in control of whether you will stay or leave. Then, feel good about your decision and move forward to maximize your new environment.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

The fact this employee is offered a lesser role in the first place has a positive underlying message that they are still a "cultural fit" and have valuable institutional knowledge to be applied in a lesser role. In larger organizations, smaller (or perhaps "individual contributor" ) roles can be parlayed to round out an employees skills sets (Don's example an excellent one). In other circumstances, due to a change of leadership / business requirements, the role requirements have also changed which made the incumbent "no longer" qualified for the role. In this later scenario, it should be a "wake up call" for the incumbent to manage one's career to "stay qualified" for current and next role.

Topic Expert
Barrett Peterson
Title: Manager, Accounting Standards,
Company: TTX
(Manager, Accounting Standards,, TTX) |

It is "less worse" usually to be underemployed. There are exceptions as with every rule of thumb.


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