Wanting to Take a Step Back in Your Career – Don’t You Dare Apologize or Dummy It!

There comes a time in some people’s career that it is time for a change.  When that time comes it is very possible that they want to dial it back a little, not continue in the fast-paced or leadership capacity that they had previously held.


Their biggest stumbling block is thinking they have to “dummy down” their resume.  Their fear is they are overqualified, which is a justified fear.  However, there is a right way and a wrong way to recreate your resume to a “lesser” position.


First and foremost the most important aspect before you even put pen to paper is having the right mindset.


Don’t “dummy” anything.  It is a misrepresentation of who you are and you are only showing a fraction of the sum of your total.  It also manifests in a manner of apology.


Never apologize for who you are.  Never.


Let me take one step back here and remind you that your title is not who you are, it is an assignment of words given to you but in no way does it represent you, what you do or the value you have to offer.  So get over the whole title thing.


So the apology isn’t about the title but the skills, abilities, expertise and experience that you have acquired which made you successful in your past and the person you are today.  Never apologize for any of that – not what you have done or who you are.  Never.  Dummying down is apologizing.


I truly understand the feeling of needing to “dummy” down; if you want this job or to move on you want to be accepted.  You want to be wanted for the job.  No one likes to be rejected and it is even worse if you are being rejected for the mere fact that you have done some great things and posses amazing qualities.


It feels like a catch 22.  You should be proud of yourself but you feel like you are being punished for just simply being you.  It is unfair, why can they not just accept who you are and what you want without freaking out about anything you have done above and beyond their needs?


Because most people do not work that way – because people are flawed.  They judge based on biases, fears and misconceptions.  Sadly people will see what they want to see no matter what you present and all the things that people look at as negatives about you are the things that scare them.


They take a sample of who you are and make an entire assumption without knowing all the facts;

They determine that because you could do their job you are going to take their job; – or –

They assume that because the position is a step down it is “beneath” you and you won’t be happy, like it or stay.


Negative and natural assumptions are difficult things to combat; however you can modify your strategy to help assist in presenting the information in a more acceptable manner.


First With Your Resume


You cannot change the titles of the positions you held so just get over that.  Don’t lie or change the title to try to better fit the new position.  It is lying – we don’t do that.


When you list out your positions my rule of thumb is to present the most important information first – whether that is the company you worked for or the position you held.  Perhaps in this situation the company should be listed first to lesson the impact of the poition.


When detailing your job descriptions focus on the opportunities and responsibilities the position offers and speak directly to those; without going into all the factors that were well beyond this position.


If you directed an entire marketing department and the current opportunity is a minor role within another company’s department speak to the overall departmental work that you did, the tasks that are in direct alignment with this position and how you were a solid, supportive team player.


Start with using the 80/20 role.  Look at your past and communicate it as 80% in direct relation to the current job and 20% some of your higher level work.  You cannot leave the higher work out completely because they will wonder how on earth you ran a department if you didn’t have any of the skills.


Second With Your Cover Letter


Use your cover letter to set the stage; how the greatest satisfaction you received was working on a team in the trenches – let them see that you are excited and able to take a step back.  This is where you want to be and can offer a great deal of value.


Some will still see you as overqualified, there is not a lot you can do about that if their motivations are driven by fear or ignorance.  That is their problem, not yours.  Keep going.


Third With Your Networking


It is important to present a solid front and to communicate your sincerity in your current search.  Before I was in management I was in admin.  I loved it.  I liked being the “working wife”; having the responsibility of helping someone keep on track, helping the clients directly and the camaraderie of the entire team.  These are the points that I would sell and would support the desire to change.


If you approach people and begin with explaining that even though you have worked in higher positions you now want to take a step back you are focusing on those higher positions.  Pinpoint your focus, understand your motives and sell yourself with enthusiasm.


Do not apologize for who you are or your accomplishments.  The right company or person will appreciate those and not make you feel any less of a person for just being you.  Never apologize for the direction in which you want to take your career or life.  It is your decision and do not let anyone make you feel bad about it.


Many, many moons ago I was in a relationship in which I was made to feel bad for the things I accomplished, the things I wanted to accomplish and some of my personal traits.  It was a systematic and gradual onslaught of I should change because he was uncomfortable with these things.


Whether he was afraid that he wouldn’t be “good enough” if I accomplished these things, insecurity of what I have already accomplished or envy that I was comfortable with myself enough to take risks, speak my mind and stand my ground – I don’t know.  The end result was I was made to feel as though I had to apologize for who I was.


Being young I began to change certain things because I wanted to make him happy.  But then I realized, who was I changing for?  If I liked certain traits about myself then why would I change them to things I didn’t like just so someone else would?


You and I cannot always manage perceptions because no matter what we do some people will see what they want to see.  It may be due to fear, insecurity, lack of information or some other driver that is not our business or concern.


I had and continue to have a choice: I can spend all my time managing other people’s expectations –or – I can devote my time to creating excellent resumes for my clients, providing invaluable coaching, developing great LinkedIn profiles, instill confidence and improve my clients’ abilities in networking and interviewing all while being a damn good mother, friend, daughter, aunt and important person in the lives of those I love.


I made my choice – which one are you going to make?  And for whom?



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


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