Don’t Job-hop – Rise to the Top

There is the saying “People join a company but leave a boss”. For me, this is a bit like leaving a spouse or partner if they had gained some weight. While we are not married to the company, why not taking this as a metaphor? Marriage contracts and employment contracts alike, are based on initial attraction and mutual chemistry, committing to a high degree of loyalty. Since divorce rates and employee turnovers are on the rise, are we lacking loyalty? – Or are we just giving up too early?

I would leave you with your own thoughts and answers on these provocative statements. For my part, I stayed 21 years with one company. It all started with the one and only interview I ever had after my graduation. To my surprise, all my friends shook their heads, stating I should have checked my market value and test the field before saying “yes” to the first offer. However, I felt good about the company, its environment and most importantly the way how I was treated from the very beginning. What followed, is an amazing journey from inhouse consulting, working onsite with McKinsey, to benchmarking project leader and further into several leadership roles in operations. Heading the finance of a business unit lead me to the assignment as CFO of a region and finally to CHRO / Head of HR of a bigger region. Did headhunters knock the door? “Yes” – yet it never felt right to leave the team. Did I always have great bosses? Thankfully, the answer is “most of the time”; from hindsight however, some of the best lessons I learnt from the not so easy bosses. So here are some of the behaviors that helped me to move from bottom to top without a single job-hop:

  • Know what you stand for; know your purpose and values – and live by them
  • Build a character of trust, which is your best personal branding; once people know that they can rely on you, you can stop looking for the next position – it will be offered to you
  • Have a mentor on a senior leadership position, ideally at least one level higher than your direct leader
  • See the “difficult” leader as an opportunity to grow yourself; try to understand why the person acts these ways; try to see the potentially good intentions behind the awkward behavior
  • Don’t go just by your job description; always do a bit more than required and be helpful to the people around you
  • Have a “what can I do for the company” mindset rather than a “what can the company do for me” mindset
  • Learn to say ‘No’ to the urgent matters to be able to say ‘Yes’ to the important matters
  • Join cross-functional projects, allowing you to get insights into other functions while also showing your capabilities outside your function
  • Be part of volunteering activities
  • Stay humble, however high you rise – and never forget where you came from

Having said this, there are surely reasons to LEAVE a company:

  • Ladder: Some people feel stuck on their career ladder, or even worse, may find out that the ladder leans against the wrong wall
  • Environment: People leave a work environment which is not psychologically safe, or even worse, toxic
  • Attitude: People change their attitudes over time; they change how they look at the job, the company, and most of all, the meaning of it all
  • Values: People quit eventually, at least emotionally, if their own values and principles are not matched by the respective company
  • External: Last but not least, there are external, almost unavoidable factors that make people leave; e.g. following a spouse / partner to another city or country, or a tragic / fortunately personal event

The decision to leave a company, however, should never be driven by one person – a “bad” boos. Don’t give up too early. Make yourself so valuable that the company can’t afford to let you go, as there might be good reasons to STAY:

  • Stability: Let’s face facts, we are generally change-hesitant; changing companies puts a high level of stress on us; also, great companies honor tenure, loyalty and years of service in one way or the other; it may pay off
  • Trust: As we know, trust is built over a long time; if you want to make it big, people have to trust in your character and competence
  • Autonomy: Autonomy is one key engagement driver; a proven track record of trust and integrity increases the chances for having more autonomy
  • You: Make it more about yourself; if you don’t know what you truly want from life, every company might be the wrong one; if you are clear about meaning and purpose however, you may find this in almost any company

On your professional progress, focus more on the person you become rather than on the positions you behold.

Find more ideas on how to simplify your life in my self-coaching book “Intentionally Becoming Different” and/or in my online course “Unfold the Serene Leader in You” – Now.

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