How to Explain Voluntary Demotion


This posting is a guest entry from the Career Doctor, Randall S. Hansen, PhD: Shawn writes: I have worked for Wal-Mart for the past three years. Last year I was promoted to department manager. Around that time I also started college studying software programming. About nine months after I started the department-manager position, I voluntarily stepped down to concentrate more on my school work. The thing is, I have a job interview coming up in my desired field that I have been going to school for. What I was wondering was, if they ask why I stepped down, what should I say? I don’t want it to seem as if I am not willing to “go up the corporate ladder” within the company. I am willing to do so, it just wasn’t in my career path to be a manager in a retail company.
The Career Doctor responds: It’s funny, because I don’t see it as much of a problem for the interview as I do on your resume. If you already have at least one interview lined up, then I assume you’ve handled it properly on your resume. In normal situations, a step backward could easily be perceived by prospective employers as being a major red flag. Many might see your situation and assume you are either lacking the skills or the drive to be successful. However, you can totally spin your situation into a win-win. Here’s what you have going for you: First, you highlight your time-management skills by showcasing how you managed to work full-time and attend college. Second, you can showcase your loyalty to the company by voluntarily stepping down from the manager position for their best interest — since you knew you could not do the job justice and attend college. Third, you can discuss how retail was simply a tool to help pay for college (while also gaining valuable experience) and that what you are studying in college is preparing you for your future career. Just don’t go negative. Don’t trash retail or the company. Instead, talk about some of your key accomplishments, as well as the transferable skills you have developed while working there. Show how the combination of your experience and education make you the ideal candidate for the position.