Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Going Backwards Is Not An Option

During the past several years, I have met and talked to many, many candidates who are or have been out of work for a very long time.  Many of them are talented, excellent advertising executives.  Sometimes being out of work is merely the bad luck of the draw.  Eventually, all of them find work, but the search is unpleasant and arduous. 


In their desperation to find work,  many candidates have asked me to find them jobs at lower titles and considerably lower salaries than they were previously making.  I fully understand and empathize with where they are coming from but this is not an option for them. 

First and most important, it smacks of desperation and no employer wants to hire someone who is desperate.
Second, it rarely if ever, works.  I see many Group Account Directors who are making, say, $200k and who, after many months of being out of work, will tell me that they will accept a job as an Account Director.  They will take $125 or $150.  It doesn’t work because inevitably they will be reporting to someone who previously should have reported to them.  While it is healthy to hire someone who wants your job, no one wants to hire a person who should really have their job.  That is a bad reporting structure.  

Third, asking to go backwards shows frustration and lack of confidence.  Unfortunately, recruiters are asked to find people who are on their way up, not on their way down.

It is one thing to accept a job for somewhat less than you were previously making in order to take advantage of an opportunity.  I have worked with many people who have done this successfully.  I have seen many account people take a step back in title and/or salary in order to gain specific experience.  I can think of one person who was working as an AE on an airline account and then took a job at another agency as an AAE to gain package goods experience. It was a successful strategy - she is now an senior vice president at that same agency and runs a substantial group of accounts.  

Taking a step backwards in order to move the ball forward is a common tactic in all football games.  But moving backwards in a career merely to gain employment is courting long term disaster. It is rarely successful to simply move backwards for the sake of employment.  Often, when this happens, it is the beginning of a downward career spiral from which recovery is difficult if not impossible. 
Going backwards is not an option.  Better to go to Plan B.


  1. I was working for a big agency when I turned 40. I looked around and saw that virtually no one there made it to 50, and that the same would happen to me. I had the great good fortune of an offer to share in the formation of a specialist agency, with ownership, and that adventure buoyed me for 13 years. Even though it was a positive life changing experience, I knew there would come a time for Plan C, and I contemplated it actively for several years. I left the company this year for consulting - morning coffee in my home office, weeks when I work and weeks when I don't. No steady income, but it was time for my work to be just me, in my time, with my skills and talents. This decision took time to percolate, but by placing attention on it over time, I was ready.

  2. Rachel: That is a nice note. Of course, you were never in jeopardy so you were able to make this hard decision on your own. But your sentiment is exactly right. More people should be introspective about themselves and their careers. Thanks for sharing.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

Creative Commons License