When an old boss calls to offer you a position at his or her new company it is often tempting to accept it. After all, this offer wouldn’t be made unless the old boss thinks highly of you and believes you had a good working relationship before.   This temptation can be stronger if things haven’t been working out as well at your current company after the departure of your old boss.

Obviously the person you work for is a major issue in overall career satisfaction. Ideally, it should be a boss who believes in you and supports your efforts.    But two other elements also come into play 1- The particular company for which you work   2 – Your job functions and responsibility level.   One reason why things may have gone well for you and your former boss in the past is that he/she had the authority to give you the kind of responsibilities and support you needed.  This may or may not be true at the old boss’ new company.  Which is why it’s always critical to ask:  would this new job and organization be a good fit and move even if your former boss was not there?

In order to answer that question, here are some key issues to consider:

1 – What is the status and direction of the new company?    If the new company has a  wave of new senior management this can be exciting but also quite risky.  Expectations can be high, perhaps even too high, for the new team.   Does this new organization have the reputation and resources to pull off the expected changes?  Is it financially sound enough to withstand changes in the market?  Of course, seemingly risky new ventures can sometimes be very be rewarding.  Those who joined old bosses who recruited them to Amazon or Google ten years ago are very glad they took the plunge.  But those are exceptional organizations.  Understanding both opportunities and risks is key.   Companies without adequate resources can end up having severe layoffs or get acquired which changes the whole game.

2 – How much authority does your old boss have at the new company?    Joining any new organization can often mean that both your former boss and you will face entrenched people who think newcomers have to earn their spurs over a prolonged period of time.  Or even outright resent newcomers who get roles they felt they deserved.  This skepticism and/or lack of initial co-operation can be a serious detriment to your old boss and/or you adapting well to the new surroundings.  Especially if an old boss does not yet have the authority at the new company to resolve a problem you might encounter with a peer, another department head or even a subordinate.   Your former boss may be put in the uncomfortable position of undermining his/her own standing within the new organization in order to support you.  Which is why it’s vital to interview with all the people who can affect your success starting with the person your boss reports to and including some of his or her key peers.  Asking the right questions and reading between the lines as much as you can helps guage how much latitude and authority your old boss has at his or her new company.  Which in turn reflects how well you can navigate the obstacles you might face at the new job.

3 – How secure would you be if your old boss leaves his or new company?     Ultimately you and your boss are different people even though you’ve worked well in the past.  So while your old bosses’ success in the new culture clearly affects your success, things can change.  He/she could depart but you could thrive if you adapt well to the other players involved.  Again, interviewing as many people as possible is one way to determine the factors that will help you either succeed or not in the new organization irrespective of what happens to your old boss.  Your would-be peers and even subordinates can sometimes provide exceptionally good insights.

4 – Does this new job enhance your career prospects?   No doubt that your old boss will benefit from your coming aboard.  You can be relied upon instead of people he/she hasn’t learned to trust yet.   But it may or may not advance your learning, expertise or responsibility levels.  If you wouldn’t accept the same sort of lateral move from an unfamiliar boss then why accept a lateral move offer from an old boss?  Unless the new job affords better growth prospects in the longer run.   Accepting a role for comfort reasons isn’t enough.  However, if the new job involves new challenges and helps build your resume, it may be worth the risk.

 5 – What growth prospects do you leave behind in joining an old boss?    Sometimes when an old boss departs, new horizons open up as your current employer suddenly becomes concerned about other departures that may soon follow.  Even if you don’t get an immediate promotion you may be able to expand your current role and responsibilities.   Plus, you have built credibility and political capital in your current organization that ultimately could benefit you by staying put.   It may be that a “caretaker” or someone relatively temporary has taken over your bosses’ former job and there will be chances for you to move up in the next 12-18 months.

6 – Has your current company become either intolerable or dead-end since your old bosses’ departure?    Sometimes people experience the “double whammy’ of having a trusted boss leave along with a new boss at the current company favoring or bringing in “his/her own people” which can block opportunities for those already there.  Or your old boss could have simply  left because things got too stagnant or frustrating at the current company and you are now experiencing that as well.  Clearly, either of these possibilities makes any offer from an old boss that much more attractive.   But this should not mean an automatic “yes” to such a move if the other factors noted above do not mesh.

What it means is you should be looking at other jobs that may fit your career needs alongside that offered by your old boss.   Exploring all your options and using the same  due diligence about an offer from a former boss that you would about an offer from an unfamiliar boss will best help you become the master of your own career destiny.



How Risky Is It to Change Jobs ?


Changing jobs isn’t as risky as it might seem.  Good adapters and communicators can succeed in almost any environment.  Moving to a new company which helps expand experience, identity, skills or responsibility level ultimately carries LESS RISK than staying in a more limited career box with a current employer.  To put it in modern parlance if a job move helps “improve your brand” it is absolutely worthwhile.

But you also have built up a “brand” with your current employer – you’ve established a reputation and that provides stability, comfort level, familiarity and possible growth opportunities.  Walking away from all that for the unknowns of a new employer isn’t something to do lightly.   But those job move risks shouldn’t be overdone either.  No matter how well a person has done at his or her company, no one has guaranteed lifetime employment.  Everyone, including current employers,  want to know “what have you done for me lately.”   Know this – the risks of changing jobs come primarily if things unravel quickly (first 12-18 months) at a new employer.  Short stints like that can damage your “brand”.               So the following  risks need to be considered when thinking about changing jobs:

  1. Being labeled a job-hopper.   This is mainly a concern for those who’ve been in their current jobs for less than 18 months.   If the new job becomes another 12-18 month stint clients and new potential employers will wonder “what’s wrong.”   This isn’t a worry for those who’ve been with their current company 4-5 years+ or had a long stint at another recent job. They have the luxury of making a short-term job hop.   Those who don’t have that same luxury need to be very careful in their next move.

2. Not accomplishing or learning much in a new job. This usually happens when people quickly leave current jobs for reasons of comfort. Taking a new job to be closer to home,    following a familiar old boss to his or her new employer, or changing jobs to cut down on travel/overtime are classic examples.  A similar thing can occur when people want quick outs from their current jobs due to new boss, impending merger, big shift in company policies, etc.  Fast jumps to escape current discomfort can backfire if the new job doesn’t involve useful skills or  meaningful accomplishments.  While such moves are understandable, they can add needless baggage to a person’s resume.

3.  “Diversionary” job moves.   This can be called the “job interestingness” disease. Sometimes people want to “try something new”.  This isn’t to say entrepreneurial risk is bad.  People who left good jobs to go into dot.coms in the late 1990’s integrated well into the “normal world” when those companies crated. Diversifying skills and perspectives by working in different industries and cultures can make a good “branding” story. But too many lateral moves also risks falling behind peers. Staying the course in Accounting jobs can result in a well-paid CFO by the age 40-45. Where a “job-interestingness” experimenter may be earning only ½ as much at comparable ages. “Jack of all, master of none” can have a pricetag.

4. Moving primarily for more money  As the old saying goes “everyone has a price” and it’s often believed big jumps in pay “justify the risk” of making a job move.   Oh contraire !
Big bumps actually make job changes MORE risky.  Big increases are often offered when the new employee is making a lateral move – (same type job, same industry) or getting “combat pay” for lousy job situations.   Should a new job not work out or become too boring, being overpaid limits other opportunities.   Of course this same principle applies to sticking with a current job due to “golden handcuffs”.  While it’s difficult to walk away from money that may be realized in the next year or so, that has to be weighed against total earning power over the next 3-5 years and beyond.  SKILL GROWTH ULTIMATELY DRIVES COMPENSATION     If either changing jobs or staying put is driven too much by short-term monetary concerns and not enough by career development it risks stalling pay growth in the mid to long term because skills don’t progress.

5. Lost Promotional Opportunity at your Current Employer.   You’ve invested time into your current employer and gained  “political capital” which can result in advancement where you are.  Job moves can risk throwing that investment away. This risk should not be overdone though.   Current employers often string people out with vague promises of advancement or offer token or incremental inducements.    “We are thinking about your next step sometime mid-next year, etc, etc.”     Talk is cheap. You should be able to assess when and how quickly opportunities will develop. If your current boss isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, then your opportunities may be limited. Nor is it worth hanging in for something that may involve relocation. Many people accepted “promotions” to go overseas and run operations that had little to no career value when returning to the U.S..  Accepting another job from your current employer has often led people down the wrong track.

As can be seen, “risk” in taking a new job always has to be balanced against “risk” of staying put.   It can be harmful to jump too quickly or rashly into a new job that ends up too short and not very sweet. Especially if it doesn’t advance your learning or career potential. At the same time, it can be limiting to stay too long at one company at one level because a person over-estimates the value of his or her current job.    Simply google “you shouldn’t stay at one company too long”.   You’ll find at least two dozen articles to explain why getting stuck in one’s current job ultimately is riskier than making a strategic career decision to go elsewhere at the right time in one’s career.