How to Downshift your Career and Resume

How to Downshift your Career and Resume


After a stellar career as CEO of a Fortune-caliber company, Ted no longer wanted the immense responsibility. He and his wife decided to relocate to a small community and simplify their lives and, in Ted’s case, take a step back and “downshift” his career. As he especially enjoyed sales, he took a position as sales manager with a local company in his new community.

Diane, an IT executive, was feeling frustrated and ready for a change. She never really enjoyed managing people and missed having direct involvement with technology projects. So, she reverted from senior manager to hands-on technologist.

Surviving a heart attack made Steve rethink his career as a division CFO. During his recovery, he took stock of his career. He wanted to reduce his stress and responsibilities, and ultimately chose a lower-level position with a large accounting firm.

These examples illustrate a few of the reasons why executives opt to shift gears and “downshift” their careers. Doing so presents some unique challenges. Writing a resume suited for a downshiftd career involves careful self-assessment of your interests, values, skill sets, personality, and work environment, as well as other factors. This must be combined with the planning and execution of a systematic search process.

For those who want to take a step back and downshift their careers, the key is to downplay your executive-level experiences and job titles while emphasizing your core skills and competencies related to your new objective. Once you determine your career direction, these 7 pointers will help you create an effective marketing tool.

  • Target your resume by clarifying your focus. This will serve as a central theme around which you’ll shape the content of your resume. This will allow prospective employers to see you in your desired new role.
  • Review ads and review the responsibilities for your new target position. Identify the skills that you possess that match those requirements.
  • Based on your research, compile a list of your related functional and transferable skills. This will be the foundation for your new resume. In your resume, demonstrate how you’ve applied those skills by identifying related accomplishments and success stories from your experiences, both paid and unpaid.
  • Craft a “Career Profile” on your resume that paints a picture of who you want to be to support your new objective. Write a profile headline that defines the position or function you’re seeking. For example: If transitioning from COO to sales/territory management, your headline could be Sales Manager. If you’re Vice President of Human Resources but are interested in a training position, your headline could be Training Director. Within the profile section of your resume, summarize your core skills related only to your focus, rather than your entire set of qualifications.
  • Consider a combination chronological or hybrid resume that will allow you to bring past relevant experience to the forefront. The standard reverse chronological resume is not likely to be the best format when stepping back.
  • In the “Professional or Relevant Experience” section of your resume, highlight only the specific skill sets, qualifications and accomplishments that most closely match your current objective. For example: If you’re a technology director seeking a position marketing new technology products, highlight the depth of your technical expertise, your success in supporting customers, your project management results and your communications strengths. For another example, if you’re a COO switching gears to sales manager, emphasize your results in providing team leadership, revenue generation, new business development and customer relationship management.
  • When downsizing your career, a cover letter is a critical companion to your resume. This is a chance to address your reason for making a change and stress how you meet the qualifications of your target position. Here’s an example: “After an exceptional career with Company A, I have come to realize that my real passion is (your target field). As such, I have decided to now concentrate my career in this area. Thus, my interest in your company and this position.”

Once you have a solid resume, cover letter and marketing plan in place, you’re ready to begin your search. Although you can use various avenues in your search (personal and business referrals, responding to advertised positions in print and online, posting your resume online, and contacting target employers), referrals and networking should be a key component. Search firms are not as likely to be viable sources for those who are downsizing their careers.

Making any career transition requires commitment, solid focus and persistence. It can’t be a sporadic effort. If you embrace the challenge and arm yourself with the right tools and strategies, you should be able to transition to a new, more satisfying position.