The Cost of Demotion vs. a Quality of Life Promotion

Jun 28 2019

Rewarding and prosperous careers arrive as a result of dedicated quality work. We gain mastery as we navigate our path, building our contacts, resumes and skills. For some, a career path ascends a straight upward trajectory. For many women, we move one step forward, jump two back, skip three to one side, then hop five the opposite way; thriving nevertheless.

Occasionally we find ourselves off the familiar path entirely due to a job loss, family change, or other disruption. It’s easy to fear the costs of making a lateral move or even taking a step down, but sometimes a “demotion” brings a promotion to our quality of life.

Building Brave’s mentor team shared their advice for weighing a career downshift.

Consider the bigger picture

Building Brave Mentor Denise Knoblich - Vice President of Marketing Roth Living

Denise Knoblich

Will you go significantly backwards in income? Will you be happy in the role? Does it a disrupt a 3,5, or 10 year career path? Does it require a big investment in training? Leaving quickly could be quite an issue for a company. – Denise Knoblich, VP Marketing, Roth Living



Michelle Pribyl

As a hiring manager, I’m cautious of hiring an overqualified candidate. Will you become bored or demotivated in this position? Will you continue searching for a job to which you are better suited? Will this job contribute to your personal and professional growth? Note if your reasons for accepting a job are based on fear and scarcity instead of interest and passion. – Michelle Pribyl, Business Manager, Wallman Investment Counsel


Building Brave Mentor Deb Cooksey

Deb Cooksey

Plenty of employers understand the economic necessity of taking a less prestigious role when confronted with a layoff [or other interruption]. If you like the mission of your new employer, learn all you can, and make contacts. Stay open to opportunities at your new job and in your former organization/industry. – Deborah Cooksey, Associate General Counsel, Mt. Diablo Unified School District


A step down, a big boost

Building Brave Mentor Angie Rieger - SVP Planning and Head of International at Lands' End, Inc.

Angie Rieger

I took a demotion and pay decrease for family reasons. Twelve years later, I have no regrets and my career has not suffered. – Angie Rieger, SVP & Head of International, Lands’ End, Inc.



Mary Schmoeger

Early in my career I took a job that was a step down from my prior role (from management to individual contributor). It was a new industry, so I looked at it as an opportunity to learn. After several months I found that the work was not as challenging at the lower level. I left at the one year mark and joined another company in yet another industry. The role at the new company was also lower, but far more interesting and challenging. I stayed with that company for almost 20 years. – Mary Schmoeger, Accomplished C-Suite Leader

Mary Burke - Founder & CEO of Building Brave

Mary Burke

Make the most of it, do an awesome job, and make a difference while keeping your eye out for other opportunities. – Mary Burke, Founder & CEO, Building Brave


I took a pay decrease in exchange for a happiness increase. I have no regrets, except when I do my bills. I’m nicer, I have time to exercise and cook. I’ve lost weight, I have time to pursue other interests. My savings accounts are hurting but I’ve never been healthier. It’s okay to take a break from a demanding job and go into lower gear sometimes. We can gear back up when it’s time. – Building Brave community member


Download Building Brave’s Mobile Mentoring app for more advice from professional women at all ages and stages. Get guidance for your specific situation, or consider fresh voices and perspectives.



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About the Author

Meghan Wollack


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