Your company restructured or downsized during the economic downturn and you were laid off or forced to take a position that was a backward move in your career. How do you get your career back to the level you previously enjoyed?
- Have a Heart to Heart with your References. Did they genuinely feel that you were effective in the higher-level role? Any areas that you might need to develop or work on? Will they recommend you for a similar position? If you were a Director of Sales and ended up moving into a Sales Representative role, it’s essential that you have a solid supervisory reference for the Director level position in order to dispel any concerns that it was a performance related career move.
- Think Like a Recruiter: Review your resume and answer the questions that a recruiter might have about gaps in employment, reason for the backward move in career path, why you’re applying for a position outside your area. You can answer these questions strategically on your resume or in your cover letter. Make it easy for someone to understand what happened. Also, make sure your resume shows quantifiable results from the higher-level position.
- Be a Big Fish: You may need to adjust your perception of the kinds of roles you are seeking. It may be easier to move back up into a Regional Sales position at a smaller company for fewer communities, or possibly consider a Director of Sales role that manages multiple sales people. You are still keeping your management skills current and moving your career trajectory in the right direction.
- Broaden Your Horizons: There may be more opportunities for you to return to a higher-level position in a parallel industry. If you are in senior living, you could look at opportunities in home health, hospice, durable medical equipment, or working for a vendor to the senior living industry. Highlight the experience you have that will be most relevant to that position. “Managed sales teams at 5 sites, and increased average sales by XX% in 6 months by implementing training program.”
- Be Selective and Keep Your Dignity: Do not shoot your resume over to every job posting across the country that seems close to what you are seeking. Think about roles similar in scope to what you were doing and definitely follow the rule of “quality over quantity” when it comes to sending your resume. Your chances are better for a local position, but if you’re looking at other areas make sure to highlight that you’ve got the exact experience required. Do your homework. Network. Tell people you want to get back to a Director role, Regional role or whatever level you aspire to return to.
- Be an Advocate for Yourself: I can’t stress this enough. Barring any performance related issues; be confident that your career would’ve advanced if not for the economy/restructuring/corporate downsizing, and that you can be effective at the level of positions you are applying to. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will not be able to convince a hiring manager to believe in you. You got this!
By following these steps, you are on the path to advancing in your career or at least thinking about it in a constructive way. Good Luck!