Your Career Q&A: Finding a Less-Demanding but Still Meaningful Job


By Martin Yate April 30, 2019

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

I have been in HR for 40 years, working my way from an entry-level HR position to a regional HR manager and earning a master's degree in HR management. My position ended in December 2018, and I'm now searching for a new job. At this stage in my life, I no longer want to work in a managerial position. What advice could you offer me to help me find a job where I could bring value but work in a less-demanding HR role? What should my resume look like, what job titles should I look for, and what references should I give? 

With 40 years' HR experience, you can probably handle any HR job out there. So, the relevant questions are now, "What nonmanagement HR job would give me a professional sense of purpose? What job offers lower pressure and will increase my personal fulfillment?" There are a few options that come to mind in terms of both industry and job title. 

Industry Choice

Applying for jobs in industries with which you have the most current experience is a natural choice, because you understand the language and the issues, and employers will know you can get up to speed quickly. This makes the sell easier for you and the buy easier for the employer. 

The nonprofit sector may also be of interest. You might feel satisfaction knowing that you are contributing to the pursuit of worthy goals. Of course, some nonprofits offer less pay, but this only serves to reduce the competition a little. 

Job Choices

Once you've identified target industries, focus on a specific job. Given your years of experience, there are probably a number of jobs you can do. However, your resume is going to be uploaded into huge resume databases, and if it doesn't focus clearly on a single target job, it will lack the job-relevant data it needs to be discovered. Identify your "best-shot" job as the focus for your primary resume, and then adapt your resume for your other options. 

When you can't decide between your options, answer these three questions to help you choose the job you have the best odds of landing:

  1. Which of these jobs can I make the best argument for on paper?
  2. Which of these jobs can I make the best argument for in person?
  3. Which of these three jobs will give me the greatest odds of success once I land it? 

Once you've identified your strongest option, determine what the employer is looking for. Write your resume with a focus on what the "customer" wants to "buy" and what you can offer in return; this will produce a resume that gets results. Then create subsequent resumes focused on your second- and third-choice jobs. 

The Best Job for You

Without knowing more about your experience, skills and work history but having similar chronological experience myself, I think your target jobs would be:

  • An HR business partner in a company of a size similar to the one where you most recently worked.
  • A (senior) HR generalist in any size company. 

An HR business partner is one job you could undoubtedly do, but it is also a higher-pressure position. Personally, I would prefer to be the senior HR generalist behind the HR manager of a smaller company with a minimal HR team. My "sell" to the hiring manager, in part, would be, "I have been a manager, and I no longer want that responsibility. However, my wealth of experience makes me a prime candidate to multiply your impact with limited staff and resources. Plus, I'm not going to be moving on in a couple of years, like younger candidates would.
I've already faced many of the problems this company is likely to face as it grows. And I'm not after a promotion, so I don't want your job. If you hire me, I believe in six months you'll discover you have someone who can take care of business and will stand at your back in all matters." 


Once you have the resume and your plan of attack is complete, contact all the people who could possibly be a resource, tell them what you are looking to achieve, and ask them if they would consider being a reference when the time comes. Do this at the start of your search. Then write each person an e-mail to thank him or her in advance for the help. In the e-mail, state again which job you are after and why you want the job, and attach your new, focused resume. Now it is in the hands of the people who are most likely to think well of you and pass it on. 

Whether you have big issues or small concerns, please e-mail your queries to Martin at We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. 

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!


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