Modern Rules for Professional Women Moving Down the Career Ladder

career advice Sep 02, 2022
diverse women working together

Sometimes in life, it makes more sense to move in the opposite direction. Whether you're seeking a position with less responsibility, fewer hours, greater stability, or more flexibility, or making a strategic move to advance your knowledge, experience, and skills, moving down the career ladder or across the career lattice can sometimes be exactly what you need. 

You're more likely to find what you want if you take an intentional approach. That means being strategic about the roles you take on and the experiences you pursue. It also means being mindful of how your current position can help you achieve your long-term goals.

Of course, taking an intentional approach doesn't mean that you should always be focused on your career. On the contrary, it's essential to balance work and other aspects of your life. But when it comes to moving down the career ladder, it's helpful to have a plan and to be purposeful in your actions. By taking an intentional approach, you increase your chances of success and ensure that you're always moving in the right direction.

Women looking to downsize or resize their careers understand that their career is only a piece of their life. It fits within a greater ecosystem of their family and lifestyle, as well as the larger vision and goals for their life. 

A recent study found that more women than men have downsized their career plans since the pandemic. The research, which  conductedthe University of North Carolina conducted, surveyed over 2,000 adults about their career goals and found that 30% of women said they were less likely to pursue a high-powered career than they were before the pandemic.

The study also found that women were more likely than men to say that they were now prioritizing family life over their career (43% vs. 37%). The researchers believe that the pandemic has led many women to reassess their priorities and focus on what is most important to them. Downsizing presents a temporary measure for some women, but for others, it may mean a permanent change depending on their career aspirations.

Moving down or across the career lattice can also be a daunting task when you're worried about the reaction of others. Will they think you got fired? Couldn't handle your job? Are you going to go broke chasing your dreams? The truth is, none of that matters. This personal decision should be made based on what's right for you. Just be confident in your decision and don't let the opinions of others dissuade you. 

In reality, downsizing your career can be a wise and practical decision, especially if it frees up time to pursue other interests or focus on your health and wellbeing. 

So what are the modern rules of downsizing or resizing your career? You'll want to (a) be clear on why you're downsizing, (b) take inventory of what you have to offer, (c) be patient with yourself and the process, and (d) see it as an opportunity. 

Be Clear On Why You're Downsizing - here are four common reasons:

  1. Are you reducing stress? More than 40% of employees say their job is highly or very stressful, according to a poll by Northwestern National Life. A less demanding job might enhance your health and overall wellbeing.
  2. Are you preparing for retirement? Thinking about working in your senior years to stretch your savings or stay engaged? Easing into your encore career may give you more time to figure out what you want to do next.
  3. Are you changing fields? Moving into a lateral position may get you the skills and opportunities you need to prepare you for your next act successfully.
  4. Do you want to focus on other important matters example, maybeFor example, maybe example, maybe you’re less focused on your job than you used to be, and you’d rather shift your time and energy to spending more time with your family or working on personal projects.

Take Inventory of What You Have to Offer:

  1. Identify your strengths. Spend some time evaluating your gifts and transferable skills focusing on the those you want to continue using and those you don't. Taking inventory will guide you to the kind of work where you excel.
  2. Edit your resume. You'll want to restructure your resume to focus on what you want to next. This may require you to deemphasize some positions and highlight others more.
  3. Can you downsize where you are? In an effort to keep you with the organization, many companies will consider restructuring your position to accommodate you. Or you may be able to work as a consultant or freelance or even move to a different department doing the work you really want to do.
  4. Use your network. Your other network will be valuable at this staget them know your plans so they can go to work to support your efforts.For example, they

Be Patient With Yourself and the Process:

  1. Try before you buy. Before you make the change permant, test the waters. In the Career Rebel Academy I call this a Career Pilot Study. While you're in your day job do some part-time work or volunteering so you can determine if downsizing is right for you.
  2. Take a break. Don't underestimate the power of a break. We've seen so many celebrities step out and back from their work to perseve their mental health. If possible, take a significant sabbatical to rewire and refresh. You may be clearer on your next steps after that. I know I was when I took that step.
  3. Get your finances in order. Before you downsize get your finances in order. You don't the move to create more stress, that's not the purpose of the process. If necessary, reduce expenses, cancel subscriptions, and say good-bye to your daily trip to Starbucks.
  4. Take action. Any big change can feel overwhelming. Break your plans down into smaller steps so you're not overwhelmed by the process.

See it as an opportunity - perspective matters:

  1. Make a plan for your future. Do you have a vision for your future? Not just for your career, but for you life? Where do you want to be in 5 years with your family, your kiddos, what about traveling, etc. Life is so precious, don't plan for your life post-retirement, plan for it now!
  2. Keep learning new things. Downsizing your career can also give you an opportunity to learn something new. Whether it's learning a new language, getting a Google IT Certificate, or completing an advanced degree that's always been on your bucket, use this opportunity to level up your skills and knowledge. When I was getting my doctorate, there were several other women in their 70s and 80s who were there just because it's something they always wanted to do.
  3. Manage your mindset. If you follow the above steps you won't be filled with doubt over your decision. But in case you start to wonder, be sure you have a routine to manage the negative thoughts or doubts that may come your way. 
  4. Find a community of support. I don't believe in doing things in isolation. Studies show women always achieve more in community with other women. So connect with others who are moving down their career ladder or across their career lattice so you can have the constant support you need.


The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to downsize your career. It's a personal decision that should be made based on your own motivations and goals. Be honest with yourself about why you're making the change. If you're not sure, take some time to explore your motivations and make sure that downsizing is the right decision

In reality, downsizing your career can be a smart and practical decision, especially if it means freeing up time to pursue other interests or focusing on your health and wellbeing. Don't be put off by claiming down the career ladder or moving across the career lattice. It could open you up new and exciting opportunities that otherwise would have never been available to you.

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