After 20 years of
continuous employment, Iíve been out of work for six months. While the
economy is beginning to grow again, unemployment is barely budging. Iím
very concerned about my future and having to step down to find work.
While money is important, I think thereís more to my anxiety than
dollars and cents.
Iíve been around
long enough to know that recessions come and go. Why do I feel that I
may be in a permanent slump and itís all down hill from here?
What Does Stepping Down
Mean to You?
Taking a step
thereís a term loaded with angst for most job seekers. Very few people
want to be less successful in the future than theyíve been in the past,
whatever their definition of success. Yet, if you ask a number of
unemployed individuals what stepping down means to them, you will likely
get a variety of responses.
What does stepping
down imply to you?
Is it making less
money or having a decreased benefit and perk package? Sending your kids
to a state university instead of Harvard? Selling your house and moving
to a less affluent community because you canít afford your current
mortgage? In a society where people often measure their self-worth by
the number of zeros on their paychecks, a lower compensation package
means a substantially reduced lifestyle and a devastating blow to the
Does the thought of
less authority or responsibility mean youíve lost your edge or are no
longer a player? Would you feel less important if fewer people reported
to you or your title changed from Vice President to Director? Our
culture tends to judge us by our accomplishments rather than our
character. The loss of face in accepting a lesser position can be just
as humiliating in the US as it is in Japan.
Is working fewer
hours your definition of stepping down? Many professionals become
underemployed because they take part-time positions that pay
significantly less than a full-time salary.
employees, a regular 40-hour shift instead of 50 with overtime means
fewer hours with lower pay. These lost hours decrease both income and
self-esteem, if the worker can no longer support herself or her family
on her reduced income.
Are you concerned
about moving to a smaller, less prestigious company whose market share,
products or customer service seem inferior to your former employerís? A
reputation for mediocrity can make your job much harder because
underdogs get little respect. People who align their identities with
their companyís can experience a tremendous loss of self-worth if they
donít perceive their organization to be the best.
Is a forced move
from employee to independent contractor or temp status particularly
difficult to swallow? For many years, being an employee meant security
and a company to call home. With the proliferation of downsizing,
organizations are using independent contractors and temps to replace
full-time employees. This shift in the employer/employee equation has
meant vanishing benefits, insecurity and a lack of belonging for baby
boomers, whose parents took a lifetime working relationship for granted.
Do you feel you must
resort to starting your own business because no one is going to hire
you? I hear this lament from a number of professionals in their late
forties and fifties who think corporations are only interested in
younger, less expensive workers. Unfortunately, particularly with
Fortune 1000 companies, this perception is often true.
When a Step Down is
Truly a Step Down
If you are contemplating taking a position that has no upside
potential, itís common to think it will: