54 great comments!

Should I Accept A Lower Level Job?

human interest, temporary solution, skill level, temporary solutions, job search, job offer, low level, employment, accept, jobs, decisions, levels It’s time for you to get a job.  Any job.  Ever heard this before?

It may come from a concerned friend.  A distant family member who knows better. Or you may simply overhear words like these at a party or in the stands at your kid’s baseball game.

And whether you are a man, a woman, the primary breadwinner, a secondary contributor, old, young, white or blue-collar you may hear these words and cringe.

Part of you will think they are right.  After all, we are here on this earth to work and contribute.  You’d be working and bringing in something.  And at least you’d get these people off your back.

It is a complicated question. And one that, in the end, is a very personal decision. I will never criticize you for making a well thought-out decision.

But I will be disappointed in you for settling for the wrong job when you haven’t thought it through.  When you settle at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.

Because if you haven’t thought it through, you are reacting.  Not deciding.

Need someone to help you think through your current offer?  Hire me for a power hour or use my SidebySide job offer evaluation tool.

Here’s a scenario you won’t like:

  • After significant prodding from friends and family you go out and start looking for a job that is well below your skill level and experience.


  • As you start to review the job, the role you’ll play and the money you’ll make – the idea makes you feel “less than” but you keep going for the reasons identified above.


  • As you apply and are told you are over-qualified again and again, the thought pops into your head “I can’t even get a job as a (insert job here)”.  And it knocks you down some.


  • When you finally get an interview for this lower-level job you have a brief moment of pleasure.  Somebody wants to talk with you.  But they are not asking you the right questions about management or strategy.  Instead, they are asking about your ability to work nights. Or whether you still have any connections with purchasing managers at your last few companies.


  • You get an offer well below your pay grade and take it. To make some money and get back to work.


  • The first day comes and the early rush of optimism turns into a “whoops, what have I done feeling”.  You examine the contents of your cubicle’s desk drawer and realize that you don’t have a pair of scissors. You’ve never had to ask for a $4 pair of scissors before.  So you don’t.


  • You suffer for three months and eventually quit.  You are angry at your boss for hiring you at that salary.  And at yourself for giving in.


  • You are now back on the market.  Confused and unsure how to explain to friends and family (and the next company) what happened and why you decided to pursue and take that job.


Now, as I said above, I’m not saying there isn’t potential for a positive version of this playing out.  There are companies and situations where you can succeed by shifting down temporarily.  Where people will hire you at a lower level and give you a chance to reset your career in a tough economy.

And in this positive scenario, your first day will feel better and you won’t hate your boss.  You will adjust nicely to the new company, its staff and your new office environment.

This happens when you go in with both eyes wide open.  You’ve asked all the right questions and you are accepting this job with a strategy in mind.

Not just because it provides a temporary solution.

What questions should someone be asking themselves and the hiring company before taking a job below their prior level of pay or responsibility?

Thanks dxbach for the great photo via flickr

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Tags: | | | | | |
Categories: Career Advice
  • Tim, this is definitely something thought-provoking, particularly as we climb out of a recession. Here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth: seeking a lower-level position serves a better purpose when it is part of a transition strategy into a new career/industry and someone is looking to build skills and experience.

    Taking a lower-level position to just “have a job” typically leaves the employee unfulfilled and not set up for a long tenure. Employees who have done this usually keep looking for a position that is a better fit and ultimately end up leaving at the first higher-level offer.

    While accepting a lower-level role may seem like a win/win — employee gets paycheck; employer gets overqualified talent — it usually winds up being only short-term.

  • Thank you, Robyn.  As I told someone on Facebook, I hesitate sometimes to write posts that appear to be negative but this one stuck with me.  It was based on a job seeker I met recently that could not separate good job from bad job and was rushing into “any solution”.  I like your point about the difference between a transition and looking for the next job in the same field.

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  • Way to make us think, Tim.

    #1 question we should always ask about any job: “Does it fit my Vocational Calling or will it lead me closer to discovering my Vocational Calling?”

  •  Thanks Kent.  A good question to ask, for sure.  Appreciate your adding that one.  🙂

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  • I agree that taking a job solely for the sake of being employed is a no-win situation. As you point out, it leads to regret 

  •  Agreed Melissa and thank you for reinforcing that point.  All I ask is that people really think through and understand the decision before they make it!

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  • This is an amazingly tough subject to talk about.  And although I tend to agree with you, I see the other side to this, too.  The relationship of our job and our identity is different from person to person.  It certainly can painful to take a job that someone thinks is ‘beneath’ him/her.  But in today’s world there’s also a reality to face (ie. putting food on the table).  It’s not realistic to think that we won’t have setbacks.  The good news is that there are plenty of people who’ve taken that ‘lower’ position, sometimes an entry-level position, and re-invented themselves and their careers.  Learning to live with one’s self and one’s reality might be the more important lesson.

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  • Thanks for your thoughts here.  “Amazingly tough” is right.  And I hope you are right that those re-inventions are occurring.  I haven’t heard of as many positive transitions but hope to hear of them.  What I do hear of is friends who took the lower level job because it seemed like the right thing to do.  And then regretted it.  I wrote this post for them.  For those who needed to reset expectations, I understand and hope they find a path to re-emerge in a better place.

  • Mrksobwick

    I think it would be tough to take & accept a lower level paying job, because it is like starting all over again & starting on the lower step ladder & move up on the ladder.

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