How to Move Down the Career Ladder

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Sometimes, moving down the career ladder, instead of up, can make sense. It could be by choice if you want to opt out of a fast-track career for a job that's less stressful or for a job that's more fun. In other cases, especially in a down job market or an industry that's not doing well, it can make sense to look at alternative job options and downsize your career.

How do you move down the career ladder instead of up it? First, you need to consider the fact that you may earn less money, but you may also have more flexibility, less stress, and more employment options. Then, you need to consider what alternatives are available and how to find and apply for them.

Tips For Moving Down the Career Ladder

  • Make a decision. Decide if you can get by on a lower salary. If so, how much less? Are the benefits a lower level job may have worth what you are potentially giving up in a more lucrative position? Use a salary calculator to see what you could earn in a different job. Consider some of the ways you can change careers without having to go back to school.
  • Consider job options. What are you interested in? What would you like to do? Do you want to leave your job as a college administrator to work in a bookstore? Or maybe you would like to leave a financial services position to sell real estate, to work at home, in a seasonal job or at a couple of part-time positions. Review career and job options to get ideas, consider how you could makeover your career, then spend some time deciding what your ideal employer would be like.
  • Tap your connections. Your online connections and personal contacts are resources you can use to get information on career options and to help with a job search. See if you can set up some informational interviews to find out more about jobs of interest.
  • Give it a try. When you're not sure what you want to do, try it out. Consider a part-time job or volunteer to make sure that it is really something you want to do. Before you give up a high-paying job, it makes sense to test the waters, if you can. There are many opportunities for gig jobs you can explore while you still have your day job. 
  • Revamp your resume. Resume experts usually tell you that you should highlight your skills and experiences to enhance your employment prospects. In this case, you will want to edit your resume, focusing on what you want to do (rather than what you are doing). Tone it down so you don't come across as high-powered as you really are. Here are tips for writing a resume when you're overqualified.
  • Use your cover letters. When writing cover letters, focus on your transferable skills that are relevant to the new job. You can use those skills to help explain your transition. Here's an example of a career change cover letter and tips for writing a cover letter when you're overqualified for a job.
  • Get to know job applications. You may never have had to fill out a job application, so it's a good idea to get to know them. You may need to fill out an online job application, a paper job application or apply in person. Here's what you need to know about job applications and how to complete them.
  • Start a job search. This part is one of the simpler steps in the process of downsizing your career. The higher the level of the position, the fewer jobs are available and the more competition there is. The opposite holds true, so you will have more choices and more job listings to consider when you're looking for lower-level jobs. Start with the job search engines, then use niche sites to find job postings in the geographic location and industry in which you would like to work.
  • Consider it a transition. Instead of considering your new job a step-down, consider that you're doing something different. Every job is of value, regardless of what we're doing. It's what you give -- and what you get out of your work -- that's important.
  • Be brave. Change is scary for most people. It can be even scarier if you're looking for a mid-career change and starting over. The alternative is worse though. It can be better to take the leap and try something new than it would be to stay stuck in a job you hate.
  • Be humble. This is probably the most important advice there is. When you are moving down the career ladder, by choice or not, you may not be considered as the important person you once thought you were. Be humble, be flexible and be willing to do what your bosses need you to do.