How To Handle a Job Demotion

Don't let the corporate pace become a pain
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Jobs can be downgraded for many reasons. For example, employees can be demoted in order to eliminate duplication after a merger, to reorganize or streamline an organization or for poor job performance. In all cases, there is a sense of loss and a threat to self-esteem.

Get Support

Being demoted is painful - you can feel rejected, unwanted and unappreciated. You may need to seek support from friends, family and/or counselors outside the workplace, in order to share and address your feelings. As with any loss, it will take some time to work through these emotions before initiating a strategy to move on with your career.

Should You Look for Another Job?

You may need to decide whether to stay with your current employer or find another job. It can be a good idea not to make a hasty decision. You don't have anything to lose by taking the time to see if the new job will work out or if you need to move on.

In either case, it will be critical to establish a record of strong performance in your new role. Dedicate the time and energy necessary to master the new job, work on rebuilding your relationship with your manager, if necessary, and develop a positive rapport with any new supervisors.

If you plan to stay on with your current employer, you will need to demonstrate your commitment and alleviate any concerns that your supervisors may have about your attitude.

If you decide to seek outside employment, you will be in a better position to receive a positive recommendation from your new supervisors if your performance is above average and you handle the demotion gracefully.

When You Decide to Move On

Here's what to do if you decide that staying isn't going to work out, and you need to find another job:

Don't quit. Don't just resign from your job. If you do, you may not be eligible for unemployment. Here's information on eligibility for unemployment when you quit. It's easier to find a job when you have a job, so keep that in mind as well. Strategically plan your departure, so it's on your terms.

Be careful. Keep your job search confidential and don't mention that you're job searching to anyone at work, especially your boss. You don't want to end up getting fired because of your job hunting activities.

Initiate networking activities with professionals in your field through professional organizations. Attend meetings and conferences, and volunteer for committees to raise your profile. Here's how to use career networking to help with your job search.

Reach out to friends, neighbors and family to ask for referrals to professionals in your field for informational consultations.

Be prepared to explain your demotion. You may opt to explain your position change in your resume or cover letter, but you're not required to. You don't want to knock yourself out of contention for a job because you shared too much information.

Create or enhance your LinkedIn profile, join LinkedIn groups for your career field and college and reach out to contacts for informational interviews. Be careful about what your manager and colleagues can see that you're doing on LinkedIn. Update your resume, work on some cover letters for target jobs and have your documents critiqued.

If you're a college graduate, tap the resources, services and job listings offered by your alma mater. Otherwise, check out how to find free or low-cost job search help.

Attend social and professional networking events and job fairs. Have an elevator pitch ready to share with networking contacts and recruiters. Consider having a business card printed with your contact information.

Plan Your Transition

Do keep in mind that laying the groundwork for your transition to a new job will likely take some time. Patience will be critical so that you don't tip your hand prematurely, and create concerns with your current employer.

How to Explain a Demotion in a Job Interview

You should be prepared for your potential employer to ask about the demotion during your interview. While this doesn't have to be a deal breaker for the position, you should try to frame that transition in the least damaging way possible.

Remember that your interview is your opportunity to highlight your strengths. While you will need to address the demotion when you are asked about it, there is no reason to dwell on it. Do your research on the company and the position, and be prepared to discuss your relevant skills and experiences.

You are there to present yourself as the best possible candidate for the job, and while you should have a plausible, truthful answer to this tough question prepared, there is no reason to elaborate any further than necessary.

The Best Way to Answer Interview Questions About a Demotion

If your demotion was in the past and you have now moved on to a higher level job, you can emphasize what you have learned and accomplished since the demotion, and how it qualifies you for a higher level job. Perhaps you identified a weakness and took steps like courses or workshops to strengthen that area.

Your task will be more challenging if you are currently in a job which represents a step-down. You should emphasize the skills you have applied and the positive results which you have generated in your current role. If there were circumstances beyond your control, like a restructuring which reduced the number of management positions, then you can explain those factors, but don’t make excuses for your shortcomings, or blame the company.

Don't Criticize the Company

Regardless of which angle you're coming from, be careful not to criticize management in any way. If you have identified any issues in your skill set or performance which led to your demotion and taken concrete, documented steps to address those issues, you might include some of that information.

For example, if a previous job required you to create reports in Excel and you were demoted because you weren't able to do so, but now have taken online courses and mastered Excel, then you might reference that development.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

A preemptive way to defuse any concern about a demotion is to acquire a reference from a boss or colleague at that organization which clearly affirms the value you have added as an employee. You can also start the spin in a positive direction by framing the issue in your cover letter or resume, so you have a foundation which you can elaborate on during the interview.

If you can find a way to frame the demotion as an opportunity to strengthen your skills, you should. For example, returning to sales after leaving a management position might have given you the needed opportunity to refresh your knowledge of your product and client base, making you a more effective manager than you were before.  

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