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How To Get Your Career Back On Track After Taking A Junior Job And Lower Salary

How To Get Your Career Back On Track After Taking A Junior Job And Lower Salary

This reader needed to find a job quickly and accepted a more junior title for a lower salary. Now, she’s trying to get her career back up to its previous level:

My overall package is possibly presenting me as too junior and I’m not quite sure how to be address this. I believe that while people understand the value and impact that someone with my background could bring, they probably think that if I was willing to take the last role / the compensation that went with it, then I’d probably do the same [at my next job]. When we reached the salary discussion raised in my last interview the recruiter kept bringing up the last experience almost as a benchmark.  They seem to imply that perhaps I need to prove myself first to get to the level that I was functioning at before my career mistake. -- Ann


1 - Believe that you can get your career back to the right level

I had a communications client who spent a couple of years in lower-level roles but eventually landed a job at her previous higher salary (almost double what she most recently earned). Another client switched industries (from professional services to media) and took a mid-level title and compensation that was relatively more junior than where he was in his previous industry. However, within the first year, he brought his compensation back up with off-cycle salary adjustments and bonuses and within three years, he had an executive title.

I’m sure there are more success stories for your target area and level, so find them! If you’re in the thick of climbing your way back up, it’s easy to get discouraged, which dampens your efforts and enthusiasm. You need to keep the success stories front-of-mind so that you remember that others found a way, and you can too.   You also may get ideas from what worked for others that you can apply to your search.


2 - Make sure you are performing at the higher level you are targeting

One of the things that my communications client and media client did so well was clearly demonstrate their value at the higher levels they were targeting. Both professionals had managed teams, key clients and large projects and could outline their scope of their responsibility very clearly. Both professionals knew the competitive landscape and the urgent challenges for their target areas. They also did exhaustive research into the companies that ultimately hired them so they could outline how their expertise, skills and experience would apply specifically to those companies.

Too many job seekers share a laundry list of their positive attributes and expect companies to know how this translates to them. Instead, you as the job seeker need to do the heavy lifting of clearly outlining what you are going to contribute. If you started working right now, what could you accomplish? This means you’ll need to understand what’s going on at the company, what their priorities are, and what you can take on. This means you’ll need to do advance research and planning before your interviews. It’s not easy, but it’s doable.


3 - Focus your job search on networking

Your most recent job title and compensation is a very strong anchor in the minds of prospective employers of what your value is. Therefore, your resume and online profile will not showcase you at the right level. Therefore, as ubiquitous as these tools are, you can’t rely on them to do your marketing if you’re trying to leapfrog up in title or compensation. You have to get to employers and showcase your value before they get other ideas already planted in their head. This is done by getting referred into employers by friends and colleagues who do know your value or by reaching out to decision-makers at your employers of choice and landing an exploratory meeting. You might also meet decision-makers at professional association events or conferences.

Directly reaching employers, rather than relying on your resume or online profile to get your foot in the door, is what networking means in the job search context. There are various ways to make contact (I mention three suggestions above), but what they all have in common is that you need to put yourself out there and be more active than responding to job postings or hoping that recruiters call. There is also the greater probability that you will experience rejection firsthand as people don’t respond to your calls or emails or say an outright no to an invitation to meet. Networking is harder but more effective, and for someone trying to change perceptions about title and compensation, it’s the only thing that works.


4 - Stay active on projects where you can collect tangible results

Networking also takes time, so while you’re waiting for people to respond and calls or meetings to be scheduled, you need to stay active so your skills and expertise remains at the high level I mentioned in Point 2. My communications client had dropped down to part-time at one point but her projects were pivotal to her clients and her contribution was quantifiable and significant. My media client took a step back in overall comp and title but in a role that had a clear progression to get him back up quickly if he proved himself. He never took his eye off that executive prize, consistently looking for projects to take on and notch additional tangible results.

While you’re looking for a job, you can consult, volunteer, or self-study on breaking news and cutting-edge skills in your area. Job search itself takes time and focus, and this work would be in addition to the networking and other job search activities. But it’s critical to stay active because employers weight recent activities and results more heavily than things you accomplished in the distant past.


5 - Keep your pipeline full

Even if you do everything right – you stay active, you get to the decision-makers, you demonstrate your value, you stay upbeat and come across positively – you still might not get any one job. You may be bested by another candidate. The prospective employer, where you just had several promising meetings, may decide not to hire after all or pick someone internal. Or the role changes and you, once the front-runner, are now no longer a fit. Keep your pipeline full in case some opportunities fall away. My media client got close on two jobs where one company changed the role and the other company elected not to hire. My communications client got close on a job that fell apart at the offer negotiation stage.

Job search is a numbers game. Even as your networking picks up, keep adding new leads into your meeting pipeline. Even as your interviews move along, keep researching new companies and possibilities. Your pipeline should include prospects at various stages of development. If you get a job, keep in touch with the early leads for your next job search!


Credit : by Caroline Ceniza-Levine (