I Applied For A Demotion And Got Turned Down

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Written By Colin Graves

I’ve spent the past four weeks in what felt like the world’s longest holding pattern.

I’d been waiting on a decision that would have brought with it some major career and life change.

Here’s how it all went down:

In late July, I got a phone call from my boss.

He mentioned that a national level manager was having trouble finding a suitable candidate for a vacancy in their department.

They had drawn from a pool of applicants in a couple of large cities, were underwhelmed by the quality of candidates, and decided to extend their search outwards.

By a couple thousand miles.

Shifting Priorities

My manager was asked if he had any direct reports he could recommend, and my name came up.

And so, here he was, calling to let me know about the potential opportunity, and find out if I would be interested in putting my name forward.

A few months ago, he and I had sat down for a routine career conversation. And while I didn’t tell him outright about my plan to climb down the corporate ladder, I did share that I felt my priorities were shifting.

Career wise, advancement and financial gain have taken a backseat to wanting more control over my time.

This new role, which came completely out of the blue, seemed to fit the bill perfectly:

  • I would be working from home full-time!
  • No evenings or weekends.
  • I would relinquish the additional responsibilities of people management.
  • It would be a specialist role, which would simplify my workload.
  • I would still have plenty of independence (my boss would be thousands of miles away).

I Applied For A Demotion

The new job would be one level below my current one. It would involve sacrificing some upward range in the salary band, although my actual salary wouldn’t change.

For me, it was purely a lifestyle move.

And from a lifestyle perspective, the advantages of the new role were significant.

By my estimation, I would take back 15 hours of time every week, by ditching the daily commute as well as the additional hours required by my current job.

I could then invest those 15 hours how I see fit. More time for family, fitness, as well as the blog and side hustles.

And it wouldn’t be without its financial benefits.

Working from home would save our family hundreds of dollars per month; mostly on the cost of commuting, but also on things like not having to buy work clothes, and occasional eating out etc.

We would also sell our car and return to being a one vehicle family.

An Easy Decision

After discussing the opportunity with my wife, and tossing the idea around for a day or so about 5 minutes, I decided to go for it.

I emailed the hiring manager, who sent me an invite for an interview.

I don’t really know how to best describe what transpired over the following 4 weeks, but here’s a summary, in a nutshell:

  • I interview for the role. (90 minute phone call).
  • Near the end of the interview, I’m told that I’m far and away the strongest candidate, and to expect a job offer within a few days. (note: as a people leader myself, this is something I never do, even if I’m sure I have the successful candidate in front of me).
  • At this point, I try not to let my mind race ahead to the possibilities that working from home would bring.

A week goes by. Nothing.

  • Then, Instead of a phone call with a job offer, I get an email saying that a higher level manager wants to do a second interview within a few days. Cue the corporate dysfunction.

I wait 10 days.

  • I finally have a second interview, which seems to go well.
  • I’m told it will be another week and a half before a decision is made.
  • A few days later, I receive an email, forwarded to a large group, announcing the retirement of the hiring manager from my 1st interview!

I wait another week.

  • The ‘suddenly retiring’ hiring manager, the one who told me to expect a job offer almost 4 weeks earlier, calls to inform me that they’ve decided to withdraw the posting, and not fill the role at this time. What?
  • The official line was that due to her retirement announcement, as well as it being so close to the end of the fiscal year, her boss decided to hold off on filling the position.
  • I politely explained that I understood, and thanked her for considering me for the role, yada yada.

So, while no one ended up getting the job, it certainly feels as though I was turned down for a demotion.

If the posting does reappear, I’ll consider putting my name forward again, but after that experience, I’m somewhat less inclined.

What I Learned About Myself

I would by lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but not getting the job didn’t rattle me as much as I thought it would.

Perhaps my expectations were tempered due to the ridiculously long wait, I’m not sure. I should note that I still very much enjoy the job I have now, but I’m ready for a change.

Either way, the experience allowed me to make the following observations:

I spent a month in a state of complete suspension. Throughout the entire process, I found myself unable to initiate even the smallest of tasks. It was a feeling I’d never had before, at least not to this degree.

For example, I had been planning to call and cancel our cable, something that only takes a few minutes, but I put it off.

I stopped blogging completely, and I didn’t get to the gym.

It’s as though psychologically, I couldn’t move forward until a decision was made, no matter which way it fell.

I have some apathy to deal with. Being forced to consider the logistics of working from home uncovered a major irritant I’ve become apathetic about.

That is, the sheer amount of time and money I spend by not living close to where I work.

This is something that should bother me, but because it’s been this way for so many years I’ve gotten used to it.

So, instead of shrugging off my 90-minute, 70 mile, daily round-trip commute as an opportunity to focus or unwind, I should view it as a problem that requires a solution.

This doesn’t mean that we’re going to up and move next door to my office, but there are other ways that I can create efficiencies, such as adjusting my work schedule.

Side hustling has transformed my mindset. When I finally got the call this week, I didn’t feel terribly disappointed. That surprised me, given the enormous benefits that would have come with working from home.

This is a testament to how my mindset has changed since I began blogging and side hustling.

Because I’ve found ways to be creative and make money outside of my 9-5, my career is no longer the be all and end all when comes to making a living.

Subconsciously, I know that if something doesn’t go my way at work, it’s ok, because I’m creating additional revenue streams and am less dependent on career success.

To summarize:

  • I have some apathy I need to deal with.
  • I’m in a far better headspace about my 9-5, as a result of my blogging and side hustling activities.
  • Last, but not least, sometimes it’s ok to put life on hold for a few weeks.

By the way, the first thing I did after being turned down for a demotion?

I called to cancel my cable.


I would love to hear from you!

Has your life ever been put on hold, as you’ve waited for a resolution on something big?

How has side hustling changed your career mindset?

10 thoughts on “I Applied For A Demotion And Got Turned Down”

  1. The waiting game can be excruciating, especially if you’re unemployed at the time. Thanfully you were at least employed, but still I hate the runaround that so often happens when going for a new job.

    Bummer about the missed opportunity, but hopefully if and when it becomes available in the future you’ll be able to nail it down!

  2. Oh MMM, this can be SO frustrating. When I transitioned out of the military and joined the company I work for now…it was so difficult to get a read on the hiring process. This are much more straight forward in the military. My experience, while nowhere near what you went through, was enough to drive me crazy!

    I’m glad your mindset is shifting though and you are finding positive angles to this!

    • Hey Cooper! I can imagine there must be a real culture shock transitioning from the military over to the corporate world. I shared my story with a couple of people, and I heard some experiences which were much worse than mine. To me, it was more amusing than anything I think, as I hadn’t let my expectations get too high. I actually came away from it with a renewed purpose and energy. I think I just needed a decision to be made.

  3. It can be so hard to focus on anything when you feel up in the air – that’s pretty normal. I’m sorry to hear the opportunity is on hold but just the fact this is is something that is a possibility is incredible. I am an easy subway ride from work and I work from home two days a week, but my job is mentally stressful and I would gladly take a pay cut if I could get rid of some of the parts of my job that have me going in all different directions. I am going to stay hopeful the time for this opportunity will come back around. In the meantime, who know what else the universe has in store for you, MMM! Keep doin what you’re doin…

    • As always, thanks for the encouraging words, Linda. I’ll admit, I felt a bit silly after writing the post, as I began to think about people whose lives are in limbo over much more serious matters than mine.

      But, nevertheless, it was an experience that I was able to learn from. I’ve already begun to make a few minor changes to my schedule to bring some added balance. I’m very fortunate in I have a lot of autonomy in my current role, I just don’t utilize it as much as I probably should. I also have the most amazing team, I really do.

      It’s so nice that you are able to work from home part of the week, what a blessing! : )

  4. It’s really interesting to hear your mindset throughout the process.

    Ultimately, money is just a means to an end, to enable a lifestyle we are shooting for. In the end, if you can get the lifestyle without a pay drop, that’s a personal promotion (even if it might be a professional demotion).

    God’s got a plan in all of this and I’m sure even better things are headed your way!

  5. A few years ago I had the opportunity to go to the UK for a few years on an Expat assignment. It was March and the UK hiring manager had approached me about the opportunity. She needed someone pretty quickly to fill the role. When she told my boss she wanted to hire me for the position, he freaked out and wouldn’t let me go until the following January, 9 months later. He needed me around to hire and transition my replacement. Two months later the UK manager hired someone to fill the role because she was desperate for someone. However, she still said she wanted to find a role to bring me over there. Every few weeks I would speak to her about the position and she would continue to reiterate her interest in finding a position for me.

    That September, after having waited 6 months, the opportunity officially fell apart when we couldn’t get the funding to add a position to the budget. I was miserable after the opportunity fell through. I had spent the previous 6 months just trying to get by at my job, counting the days until my next vacation and picturing us living over in the UK. I felt that my boss had ruined the opportunity for me, and I eventually found another role in the organization to move into.

    Even though it was annoying at the time, today I am glad that the role in the UK fell through. I would have enjoyed living there, but the hiring manager there is not the easiest person to work for. I am now on a project that has provided a lot of opportunities to travel and work from home once or twice a week. I think the hours in the UK would have been a lot more than what I am currently experiencing.

    It’s tough to sit around waiting for a career opportunity that my change one’s life. Fortunately you were able to come out of the experience in a much better mindset.

    • Dguy, thank you for your very thoughtful comment. Your story definitely resonates with me. It’s too bad that your manager was so willing to hold you back, that’s unfortunate. But, as you say, in hindsight you may be better off. I’m sure your positive attitude has helped. I’m feeling very much the same way at this point. I think if I went through this situation 5 or 6 years ago, it may have really taken me out for a good long while. I guess we do get a bit wiser over time, heh! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!


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