At 56 years old I had been in the same industry for over 35 years and worked my way up to a Strategic Account Director. The industry was highly technical and my knowledge was vast and included up to a Masters degree in that field. However, after having quit two jobs in one year, I realized I was burnt out and ready to make a drastic change.
That is when I did something that was completely unheard of to anyone that knew me — I quit my job without having a job. And, to make that even more risky, I decided to take a break for 3–6 months to figure out my next move. It was a very dramatic move for someone that has never been a risk taker or even considered herself an entrepreneur. But, I knew it was the right move to make at this moment in my life.
I had some 401K money to live off of and it wasn’t going to touch my retirement nest egg so that helped to make this decision even easier. I wanted to make a change and knew that taking this step would propel me into a new life of embracing change and learning how to adjust how I viewed myself and my career.
Once I took that leap I set rules on what I wanted in my new direction. One was that I wouldn’t reenter that industry unless it was NOT a sales position. That’s right. I had grown to hate the stressful monthly sales quota structure and the behavior that went along with trying to compete with your peers.
So, decision one was to demote myself from a Sales role to a Customer Support role and make sure to join a company that I knew took that seriously. I knew it would be much less money but I would be happier, at a time when retirement is looming, and my own health and well-being was way more important than fighting for that month end signature. If you are at a point in your life when you have been running on the treadmill and want to put on the breaks to be able to breath a little and get back to enjoying what you do, then demoting yourself to a more enriching position is the right thing to do.
I took time off before taking taking on a new position to explore other career options. That is reason number two for taking a demotion. If your current work is very demanding and can create 50–60 hour workweeks, then taking a step backwards could mean being able to have time to explore a change in career. Creating a new “side hustle” as the millennial generation have helped coin, is a way to find what your passion is in life and how to make it create an income.
Use the hours after work to take the steps in exploring a change in career. What did you love to do as a kid that you thought would be a dream job? Start writing in a journal and explore your inner passions and strengths to see what you could monetize. There are many steps to figuring out what career can take your passions, strengths, values and personality to another level by making a change in the right direction. Also, hiring a Career Coach can give you the boost of assistance that you need. This is a hard step to take on your own, especially later in life, so don’t be afraid to get some help.
If you are in a stressful, and difficult position, and see negative effects to your health, then taking a demotion is a matter of life or death. I will never forget the day I walked into my dentist’s office, after having been his patient for over 20 years, and hearing him say I needed to quit my job because I registered high blood pressure and he had never seen me like this.
As you get older, the promotion to a higher level, with so many more responsibilities, may not be the answer to your dreams. You may have dreamed about working up the ladder only to get there and find a level of unhappiness you didn’t know could exist. Now, many people feel very satisfied with getting promoted because the job they have is exactly what they should be doing. It was already a dream job that they excelled in because they had found their bliss. But, for others, it is an unknown nightmare that becomes apparent after they start working at the new level.
We all know that feeling when you are working at the top of your field and have the respect from your peers, even on Linkedin. But, please don’t take the decision to demote yourself make you feel like you are less successful than your peers. It takes a lot of courage to do this and shows that your confidence doesn’t rely on your title. You can also explain how you are toning down to prepare for when you are able to retire. Or, in my case, you wanted to focus on customer service, which has always been a passion of mine. You can explain that you are also taking time to explore other career options that are more in line with your values and passions.
In the end, I went after a customer support role and was completely honest at the interview on why I made this change in my life. The hiring manager wasn’t only impressed with my decision, but loved the new career I was working on and knew it would provide a benefit in the new role. I was being true to myself for the first time in my life and every part of the puzzle was fitting perfectly.
You may recall the famous Winston Churchill quote, “When we’re twenty we spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think of us. When we get to forty we stop worrying so much about that people think of us. When we get to sixty, though, we realize nobody had been thinking of us, anyway.”
So, don’t care what people think, and do what is best for you.
Take the step, if you relate to one of the reasons I listed, and experience how taking a step backwards allows you to move ahead in ways beyond your imagination. Life is a journey to be enjoyed. If you aren’t enjoying yourself then take the step to make a change so you are!