Taking a step backwards to go forward in your career

by Carl

Is this opportunity taking you up, down or sideways?

Is this opportunity taking you up, down or sideways?

In recruitment we often see situations where a person wants to switch jobs and is considering taking a job that is perhaps less desirable than what they currently have in terms of (for example) the job title, money, perks, seniority, etc but might be with a better company or perhaps one that might offer a better future than the company they’re with now.

At the end of the day taking a step backwards to go forward in your career isn’t something I’m a big fan of but it’s your career and if you decide it makes sense for you then perhaps it does.

I recall one instance where I was helping a guy switch jobs and he was eager to move to a new company as he’d been with the same company for over 12 years. It was the only company he’d worked for in fact and as a result, he had a pretty good situation in that he worked his way up to 5 weeks of annual vacation and clearly also had a good reputation and good situation overall all things considered. But he felt it was time for a change in his career and as he was planning on moving to a new city, decided that the job opportunity I’d put in front of him made sense and when he received the job offer, decided to take it.

The new job offered him a bit more money but less vacation time and was essentially in the industry he really wanted to be in (financial services) so he was quite happy and eager to take the job. I remember thinking at the time that if I was him I’d probably have had a hard time giving up the 2 weeks of vacation! But he understood the situation and that the new company offered 3 weeks and he accepted it. On the one hand I couldn’t believe he’d give up his established position at the only company he’d ever worked for but on the other hand I admired his decision-making process, his confidence and his determination to move on in his career.

In this instance, things worked out for this guy and I was happy for him. He made the right decision and while he took a bit less in some areas with his new job (i.e. vacation) he gained in others.

On the other hand, I recently got an email from a woman was discussing her situation where she was considering working for another company but where the situation was more cut and dry, where the opportunity presented to her with the potential job wasn’t nearly as good as what she had currently even though the new company was probably a better one than her current employer.

But once she started comparing things that meant something to her at her current job – perks and benefits, the commute to work, her succession plan – it became clear to her that the potential employer was giong to have to change their tune and come up with something a lot better than what they’d proposed since it was far less than what she was getting currently all things considered.

She commented that had she been unemployed at the time it probably would have been a no-brainer and that taking less money to move to this company might have made sense if she had no other job prospects at the time.

But to quit her current job and move to this new one made no sense and so she decided not to.

In this case, I admired her decision making process too as well as the fact that she went into the situation with both eyes open and wasn’t impressed by the potential employer telling her about the benefits of working there even if it meant taking a step (or two) backwards to start with.

Afterall, it was her who was going to take the step(s) back not them.

One of the reasons that taking a step back in the hope that you will end up two steps forward doesn’t always work out is that things that are promised to you (especially verbally) might never come to fruition especially if the person promising them ends up leaving the company or leaving the role.

Plus once you put a position on your resume that appears to be a step backwards, future hiring managers wonder what this means as they usually expect to see a progression of responsibility and not the opposite.

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