Executive Downshifting

So you’ve finally come to the point in your life, after years and years, that you’ve had enough of the corporate rat race and you just want to slow the pace down a little. You aren’t the entrepreneurial sort you just want some flexibility. You are pretty sure that there has to be some company willing to embrace everything you have to offer and the bargain you are offering. Thing again! You’ve got a challenge ahead of you. In an employers eyes an executive that applies for a lesser job seems ‘desperate’ to them. Perri Capell in a WSJ article, How Do I Convince Employers I Want to Downshift My Career?, shares some tips on how to land such a position.

So you’ve put in 10, 20, or 30 years in the corporate world. You’ve had a career full of rewards, advancement, and fulfillment.

Now, you’ve decided that you want to get off the fast track. You want to gain some flexibility in your life and lifestyle.

You’re even quite far along in the thought process. You’ve decided that you’re willing to sacrifice advancement and compensation in order to achieve that flexibility and balance.

You know that, after a full and accomplished corporate career you don’t want to take the risk of venturing into the entrepreneurial world.

Surely there are companies out there lined up to embrace the knowledge, experience, and maturity you offer. Undoubtedly they’ll see your intentions as noble and admirable, and find real value in the bargain that you’re offering them.

Not necessarily. “You have a challenge ahead of you. Executives who apply for lesser jobs sometimes seem desperate to employers” says Perri Capell in his WSJ Career Journal piece How Do I Convince Employers I Want to Downshift My Career?

Most times, unfortunately, professionals, executives, and managers looking to “downshift” are looked upon with great suspicion. Employers question whether something is “wrong” with them, whether it be a lack of motivation, a reluctance to be a team player and/or play by the rules, or simply that they’re perceived as someone who doesn’t know what they want. On the flip side, employers have had bad experiences with senior level consultants who want to act more like directors of a company and characterize these employees as being of the same mold, looking to rest on their laurels after a long and storied career.

The key to landing such a position, according to Capell’s article is simply to diffuse employers’ suspicions:

  1. Look for receptive companies, like new companies in need of experienced executives and management and non-profits.
  2. Rely on relationships, especially referrals and networking, to make face-to-face contact with potential employers.
  3. Be up front about and clearly communicate your goals and intentions.

This is a long road for many who have chosen this path. It’s one thing to go through the process and come to the decision that you’d like to cut back. It’s another thing to convince an employer in today’s world that your intentions and motives are genuine and that you don’t come with any additional baggage.

Be true to yourself and simply be yourself. That will bring the best to anything that you do.

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