I am just coming out of a management role but am being courted for a couple of individual contributer roles (ironically, they call them Regional Sales Managers but the only thing I would be managing is my business).

Is it detrimental to my future career success to go from a management role to an individual contributor role (it isnt entry level by any means - similar to a National Account Manager)? Is this perceived as "stepping back?"

jhack's picture

Does the move make sense? Are you moving to a "lower rung" on ladder that reaches higher? Is your sales quota larger than the total quota of the team you used to manage? Are you selling a higher value, more complex product?

Not all individual contributor roles are "entry level." Many are very highly paid and respected.


TomW's picture
Training Badge

John nailed it.

Sometimes you take what appears to be a step back in order to open up larger opportunities ahead. The question I would ask is this: Does the new position offer more responsibility or more potential for growth than the old one?

HMac's picture

One way to compare positions is by using the idea of "leverage." When you're a leader, your ability to leverage through others is pretty straightforward (and organizations get that).

When you're an individual contributor, leverage my not be as obvious - because of the lack of hardline reports - but it may be there all the same. You may be leveraging those who work on delivering your book of business, or a network of contract providers who just happen to be outside the company.

Since leverage is really all about maximizing your impact, think of it this way when comparing two positions: [color=darkblue][b]does one of them provide you the opportunity to have significantly larger impact on the company's strategic goals, and/or bottom line results? [/b][/color] If so, that's an important consideration.

MsSunshine's picture

Some of the highest positioned and most respected people at my company have done exactly that. They moved up to a Managing Director or VP level. Then they moved into an individual contributor role where they had to get people to follow them without positional power. Their next position was a much bigger management position - president, general manager, etc.

I personally think that the reason is that they showed their ability to get groups or people to do things without power of being their manager. They showed they could get things done and win the respect of a wide group of people. It really takes some skills to do well. I'm not at their level but one of them has given me some coaching. In the last year, I moved from the lowest level manager to a role where I was determining some strategy and now I'm back into a different type of management position with more potential.

So, I agree completely with the previous posts that say to look at this and see what skills you could grow or learn to become more rounded.