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Is It Okay to Step off the Corporate Ladder?

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Is It Okay to Step off the Corporate Ladder?

Regardless of your profession, most of us in the corporate world have been programmed to want to climb the corporate ladder and chase the coveted senior executive positions. I have had many discussions over the years with communications professionals looking to move on from their current role and organisation as there is no room to progress.

However, the tide seems to be turning with today’s workforce looking for more in their life than seniority at work and a bigger pay cheque. In fact many are saying they do not want to be Communications Directors or Head of Communications but are finding it difficult to articulate this without sounding like they have lost all ambition. There is a belief that if you have held a senior position and are now looking to plateau or step down, you are unable to hack it at the top.

So how do you position this jump off the fast-track to your current employer? The answer to this and many questions is carefully!

  • Timing is important - make sure you are in the right head space and it is an appropriate time to bring up with your line manager

  • Know what you want to do – is it to maintain your current position without looking to be promoted or look for a different position at a lower level

  • What is in it for you – why do you feel this way and what is your definition of success and what’s in it for your employer

  • How will this affect my salary if I were to take a step down

  • Knowing what you will do if the idea is not welcomed by your employer

There is lots to factor in and once you have decided on the outcome that will be right for you, the best advice I can give is to be comfortable with your story. If you feel sheepish or apologetic for your decision it will come across and make others feel uneasy.

I recently had a former Head of Internal Communications going forward for an Internal Communications Business Partner role. She said she had held the Head of role before and had no desire to work at that level again. What she really wanted was to go into a business and feel that she was making a difference. I really grilled her on this – probably asking the same question in five different ways. But at every turn she was comfortable in her delivery and confident in what she wanted – able to explain why she didn’t want this level of role again and why she would be a good fit at a lower level.

The client was sceptical at first, worried that she would be bored or not be able to tactically roll up sleeves and deliver. However, after I positioned her rationale and a confident story delivered by the candidate in interviews, they chose her. They saw an initial threat at first but came to realise that the candidate’s background and level of experience would be an asset.

It is of course easier to position this when you have a recruiter doing the initial sell-in for you. When you apply direct to roles you don’t get a discussion on the concerns as I do. But if you are applying direct, make sure you acknowledge that you are applying for a more junior role in your note and make it specific to them.

Professional contracting could be the solution

Another route that many take is to become a professional contractor. I expect contractors to be over qualified for the roles I put them forward for. They are there to supply a service, not develop into the role. You are not expected to chase promotion as you are with a business for a set time to deliver a solution.

Whatever way you are thinking of going – please be ok with not wanting to be a corporate high flyer.  Success is how we define it personally. Know what will make you happy and have the confidence to change.

By Julie Mazzei, Principal Consultant – UK North and Midlands. 

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