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When Stepping Down is Stepping Up

Last week I wrote about situations when people worry about stepping down in their careers. Unfortunately, their negative mindset can blind them to a unexpected upside potential. If they review their career options with fresh eyes, they may find one of the paths below is the way to go.

  • Making less money can be a necessary, but temporary, precursor to hitting a financial home run. A confident, optimistic job seeker may choose a small, fast-growing organization that offers excellent potential for increasing compensation. Large bonuses, steeply escalating salary or an equity position may be worth millions.

  • For individuals who are expert deal-makers, straight commission may provide the opportunity for a substantial raise. Often seasoned sales pros prefer compensation tied to their production versus a salary or a base plus commission, which limits their income.

  • Then there’s the hardy group who loves to turn around failing organizations. They live for cleaning up messes, motivating demoralized employees, revamping product lines, bringing information systems up to date, and having a dramatic positive effect on the bottom line.

  • The attraction of battling on behalf of the underdog can be hard to resist. Our American tradition motivates people to beat the big guy.  Apple didn’t used to be APPLE.

  • Many professionals are heading for smaller, less prestigious companies where they can make a significant contribution. They like the camaraderie, shared mission, quick decisions, fast growth, access to the top and cutting-edge products entrepreneurial organizations can provide.  Gen X and Millennials are especially inclined to prefer this career path versus joining a large, slow, multi-layered
    organization. Recently, I worked with a top salesman who left a $300,000 position at a Fortune 500 company for lesser income, plus equity at a small company with great potential. While there were no guarantees, he thought the firm’s outstanding products coupled with his sales and marketing skills would mean increased compensation and personal satisfaction. He was right.

  • A sea change in the way many professionals perceive their careers is the subject of a milestone edition of Fast Company, which focused on the new corporate entity, Me, Inc. Me Incers believe their futures depend on themselves. They are experts with a toolbox of skills, which a variety of organizations will find useful. Have toolbox will travel.

  • Fledgling entrepreneurs think of their businesses as the ultimate step up. Suddenly they are the CEO. They can develop their own culture, create new products and services, hire people they like, make a lot of money and enjoy the variety, flexibility and quick decision making rarely available to an employee. And they can do this until they are 80+.

  • Kathy Dawson, a former HRVP, grew a very successful consulting firm through living its mission, “To provide world-class human resource consulting services and have a life.” Her employees and independent contractors joined her because they wanted a better balance between work and personal time. They work smarter, not harder, on a schedule that allows them to attend kid’s soccer games or take off early for a weekend at the lake.

  • Others are choosing a shorter workweek to spend more time as community volunteers, ease into retirement, take care of their elderly parents, start part-time businesses or pursue their hobbies.  In fact, Jeremy Rifkin says in his thought-provoking book, The End of Work, that this trend is changing the face of our economy.

With all of these opportunities, a step down may be the first step to a new and satisfying  career.


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