How to downshift GRACEFULLY

It’s OK to change careers for a better work/life balance

By: Mecklenburg Times staff reports//December 14, 2016//

How to downshift GRACEFULLY

It’s OK to change careers for a better work/life balance

By: Mecklenburg Times staff reports//December 14, 2016//

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By Dominique Rodgers

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “career trajectory?” Most likely, you’re thinking of career advancement, professional prog­ress. You’re movin’ on up.

But what happens when you want to go in the other direction? Family obligations, your personal well-being and shifting priorities can all cause you to need to slow down.

Take Katy Blevins: After spend­ing seven years in high-pressure sales roles, she was looking for a change of pace. Though she enjoyed her time in a senior position, she was ready for a less-stressful role that would still be integral to team success.

Blevins decided she wanted to downshift — that is, look for a job in a more junior position than the one she held. But how do you con­vince a potential employer to give you a shot at a lesser role if it seems like you’re going backward — even though you’re just as committed to the role as you ever were?


Target open-minded employers

“Downshifting is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s a sign that you are committed to continu­ing work and enthusiastic about a new employer,” says Susan Peppercorn, a coach and career transition consultant at Positive Workplace Partners in Boston.

Search online to find organiza­tions that are known to prioritize work-life balance, Peppercorn says. These organizations will likely be more understanding of your choice to downshift. Don’t overlook startups and smaller, boutique companies — they may be looking for someone like you who can bring your years of expe­rience to their organization, even if it’s not in a senior-level role.

Once you find a few candidate companies, Peppercorn recom­mends scouring your network for anyone who has worked for them and can give you some information on their culture. Additionally, reach out to your alma mater to see if they can help make a connection.


Restructure your resume and cover letter

You’ll almost certainly need to revamp your resume before you submit an application anywhere, because the resume that got you the CFO job is not necessarily the one that will land you a staff accountant position.

“Remove accomplishments that don’t align with the responsibilities and requirements outlined in the job description,” Peppercorn says. “Use the keywords and phrases that the employer uses in their posting.”

Peppercorn warns against dumbing down your resume, though. It should always be truthful and include relevant information; just change the focus. For example, in the CFO-to-staff-accoun­tant scenario, you would shift the focus from developing financial plans and securing funding to your knowledge of accounting programs and compliance.

Mary Faulkner, director of talent acquisition at Denver Water, recom­mends including a summary statement at the top of your resume that high­lights the change you’re seeking and highlights how your skills and experience can expertly fulfill the organization’s needs.

For example, Faulkner suggests saying, “As a person who has experi­ence in a role with more responsibility, I’m in a unique position to be able to add value to your organization. I will be able to bring a big-picture approach to the role without having the expectation of running everything. I can also help mentor my peers and be a resource to the leader and lend perspective.”


Shine in the interview

For Blevins, her interview was key to selling a potential employer on her decision to downshift and demonstrate to them that she (still) meant business.

Hiring managers were concerned that she’d be bored in an admin role, but Blevins convinced them that she still wanted to be challenged and be of value, just at a pace that would be healthier for her and her family, she says. Expressing a desire to be helpful in a new way alleviated the company’s reservations.

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