How a Demotion Can Save Your Career

We have all heard these words.

“We are hiring someone to help mentor you.”

Yeah right. ‘Mentor you, ’more like ‘tell you what to do.’

I remember my blood boiling as I have been in this position a few times in my career.

In the early days it was due to my age – a 20-something VP of Sales was unheard of at the time in Australia and often senior leadership felt uncomfortable.

Other times it was due to me putting myself out of a job. My tendency to methodically implement data-driven repeatable sales processes made it so once the engine I was running, it often didn’t require a driver at six figures per year.

I also have recalled the looming M&A or fundraising round – where the ex-VP of Sales or Marketing suddenly jumps over from your largest competitor to keep the seat warm as people evaluate the company.

To date, I have hated the idea of reporting to someone if my results were strong.

Yet over time I have come to see the positive in my greatest fear.

You see a demotion is an important signal. It tells you that are important enough to keep around but not excelling enough to be a prime candidate for that larger role.

To people who are looking to overachieve, one should never settle for mediocrity.

A demotion can bring to the fore several key ideas that I think are extremely important for success in the modern day business environment

I am a Chess Piece.

Regardless of our tenure at an organization or the hours we put in – if you are not the majority shareholder you can always be dismissed, replaced or looked over – even if you are putting your best foot forward in terms of individual contribution.

A demotion can surface the desire to pursue your own autonomy through entrepreneurship. Owning your own business can give you the right to say and do what you want but perhaps you aren’t ready for that journey – both in terms of risk and learnings which leads into my next point.

I’m not ready.

Normally several senior leaders are involved in actively demoting you. This event highlights that not just one, but multiple people feel that you aren’t demonstrating the indicators needed to bring your business to the next level.

Sometimes we feel this to be completely wrong. Sometimes we feel that our potential isn’t being seen or understood.

But at the end of the day – there is a stark difference between potential and execution. There is an even bigger gap between perception and reality.

Even if you are achieving – perhaps you are not ‘selling’ yourself the right way internally and there is further learning you can undergo as a person.

In the likely case that you are underqualified – this should give you the drive to go and upskill yourself in the areas that the successful candidate displays.

Either way – you should take a demotion as a reminder to perfect the way you are perceived whilst honing your skills for future opportunities

I need to work harder.

Being in a role for a certain amount of time makes us comfortable.

The example I often cite is look at the correlation between sick days taken in the first 3 months of employment to the average levels a year later. As people become accustomed to an environment – their work ethic often slows down as they realise the expected minimum output to get by.

One thing I have noticed is that the people working the hardest are often the ones who find promotion a yearly occurrence.

Take the demotion as the opportunity you need to boost your work ethic and to set some goals for the next six months.

I need to pull the plug and change jobs.

If none of the above resonates and introspectively you feel that you have been looked over then good, take the hint and move to a role that gives you more opportunity to grow.

If you fail in your next role as well – it is highly likely that the problems lies within you – whether it be your work ethic, your experience or simply your ability to select roles which suit you skill set.

I always feel that we focus too much on how others are at fault, when they are never going to be the ones that change. On the other hand, focus on the only person you can change – you.

Most of us realize this too late in life when the mistakes are already made – so take that demotion, dust yourself off and win the fight.

The quote below always inspires me when these things happen, do you know who said it?

It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Not me, Rocky Balboa. Remember that the greatest champions know how to make mistakes and learn from them. Treat demotions in this light and your next superstar role awaits

About The Author

Dailius Wilson

Dailius Wilson is the 24 year old founder of – helping the world's top SaaS companies to optimise their sales and marketing efforts. Dailius is currently a Director at TrustRadius and a digital blogger at Dailius was named as one of the Top 30 Entrepreneurs in Australia for 2015 by Anthill Online and was ranked in the Top 100 SEO Experts in the World. Dailius has also been a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show and has over 10,000,000 views on Youtube