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I'm considering a job that I am clearly over qualified for (I'm surprised they are even considering me).

I'm considering the job, because it looks a good group of people, doing good things...and frankly, in this economy, it may be the only opportunity for a while.

For sake of discussion, I'll say the job is pay grade 5, when I'm really qualified for more for a pay grade 8.

Question: someday, if an opportunity opens up where I can return to my higher level of experience--will having been in a lower-level job make it hard to return to my previous level? Is there some way to mitigate the risk of down shifting to a lower job?

Career path: Project/Program Management.

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I never accept a job offer unless I can justify to the employer that comes after the employer who made the offer why I took the offer. I'd rather say that I took the opportunity because it was a great, career enhancing opportunity but I don't always get what I want. I make no apologies for taking a suboptimal offer if I need the money - in this case, the justification is what it is and I move forward from there.

Your choice at this point is between taking a suboptimal possibility or being empty handed. I had friends in the acting business who had to decide on a daily basis what they had to do to make ends meet and have food to chew on while auditioning and hoping to get that groundbreaking role. Wanting to live your dreams can come at a cost.

You have to determine for yourself which makes it harder to get back to your former level: taking that suboptimal opportunity or taking nothing at all. Or maybe taking something that's totally out of your field. My attitude is that as long as you have money coming in, you have options. If you have no money coming in, you have no options. However, I am not you and my attitude is not necessarily yours.

If you accept that offer, you will have to come up with your own justification based on the full picture of your preferences, priorities and circumstances, none of which we know anything about.

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Question: someday, if an opportunity opens up where I can return to my higher level of experience--will having been in a lower-level job make it hard to return to my previous level?

It is indeed possible that taking this lower-level job cold have an adverse effect on your future prospects.

If a hiring manager looks at your resume, and if it seems obvious that you have dropped down several levels with this job, it may raise some red flags.

  • Why did this person settle for a lesser position?
  • Was this person looking to "take it easy" for a while?
  • Is this lower level perhaps where this person should have been all along?
  • Has time and technology changes passed this person by?
  • If this person has been happy with such a low-level position, why should I give him a much higher-level position now?

Is there some way to mitigate the risk of down shifting to a lower job?

Certainly, you'll want to have really good answers ready for the inevitable questions when they are asked.

And you might wish to keep your time in the lower-level position as short as possible - particularly if you feel that this is your only option at this time. You don't want it to appear that you are no longer in demand by anyone at a higher level.

You might even want to consider taking (perhaps lower-level) shorter-duration contracting positions, rather than a full time position. This will make it easier to quickly get back to your desired level.

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    Your middle bullet could be an especially damaging..that's what I would wonder as a hiring official. – Paulb Dec 4 '14 at 13:18
  • @Paulb - I guess the next question is "Would you throw the CV away, or would you ask about it at interview?" – Jon Story Dec 4 '14 at 15:37

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