One of the best ways to guarantee that you get a great boss is to follow one you already like when he or she moves to a new company. But is that always a wise move?
The typical U.S. worker changes jobs nearly every five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People are looking for more money, better opportunities — and, quite often, a better boss.
One of the best ways to guarantee that you get that great boss is to follow one you already like when he or she moves to a new company.
“In my experience, the single greatest element in job satisfaction is chemistry with the boss,” says Matt Youngquist, career coach and founder of Career Horizons in Bellevue. “In general, following a boss to a new job is a good route to consider.”
It was a great route for Lauren Guzaukas. She worked for Adam Nance in the development office at the AmeriCorps program City Year while studying for her master’s degree.
Nance left City Year to become the executive director at another nonprofit, the Seattle Central Foundation. When he invited Guzaukas to join his team, she jumped at the chance.
“I knew and admired his work style and the way he set vision and created goals within the team,” Guzaukas says. “When you find someone you work well with, you want to follow them.”
Youngquist says he sees the strategy of following an admired boss occur most often in fields where the work demands passion and creativity. These include restaurants, advertising agencies and just about any sort of startup.
“A team has achieved this controlled fusion, and they all get the best out of each other,” he says. “You want the same people in order to keep that going.”
‘Talent poaching’ perception
Youngquist warns that applying for a job at a new company where your former boss works is not as straightforward as applying for a job on your own. There are risks.
“If these moves take place in a small niche, such as certain types of software development, there’s a very real danger of burning a bridge with the company you left,” says Youngquist. “If the boss who moved suggests you follow, it looks like talent poaching.”
That’s why Jason, a software developer who moved between well-known telecommunication companies to follow a longtime mentor, didn’t want his real name used for this story.
“I work in a very small world,” he says.
Youngquist notes that in situations like Jason’s, the boss might not be able to invite a former report to follow them to the new firm.
“Of course, you can decide to apply,” Youngquist says, “and the boss can put in a good word for you.”
Sherri Edwards, a career advisor and owner of Resource Maximizer, says she’s had many clients follow former bosses to new opportunities. Most work out well, but a few haven’t. So she offers some words of caution.
“Find out as much as you can about the new company,” she says. “Find out what they promised your boss. Things can change really fast, the boss may decide to leave, and you’ll be left there.”
Ask questions first
Experts recommend considering the pros and cons of following your boss to a new company, just as you would evaluate any new job possibility. Is the company a good one? Does the position itself have the pay, the benefits, the professional challenges and the opportunities for advancement that you need?
When Guzaukas considered the move to Seattle Central College Foundation in 2012, all those answers were “yes.”
She not only had the opportunity to work with a great boss, but she also had the chance to use the new fundraising and scholarship development skills acquired in her masters program.
Two years later, when Nance moved out of state to his next job, the board asked Guzaukas to step in as interim executive director. Today, she directs the foundation.