Changing jobs and sliding fortunes..

What type of employee are you?

  • I will shift for higher position or pay as and when an opportunity arises. In the first thirty years of my career, I would have shifted about 9-10 odd jobs with an average tenure of 3 to 4 years.
  • I will stay in a job to learn and deliver value, even if there are better opportunities outside. The world will eventually value and reward such a person more. In a thirty-year career, I would have shifted about 4-5 jobs with an average tenure of 7 to 8 years.

Now, which one of the types is more likely to be a CEO? If you bet on the first-type, you may not be alone but you may also not win the bet.

We have been recruiting for senior leadership positions for a while now, requiring perusal of  several hundreds of resumes. It was indeed a serendipitous discovery: if one shifts jobs too often, the chances of becoming a CEO diminish. Now, you will ask me how I deduced this hypothesis. Good you asked!

We reordered a very large pile of resumes by age of the candidates, regardless position or job applied. For each age class of candidates, for e.g. 40 years old, we further split the set by designations / positions such as Vice President, Associate Vice President, General Manager, Sr Manager, etc. As the last leg of the exercise, we computed average number of job changes for each designation / position. We have now, for each age and position, the average number of jobs. Result: Higher the position, fewer the job changes. That is, if one was 40 years old and a Vice President, the number of jobs changes would be far lower than another person at 40 years and a Manager.

A similar result is also hidden in the HBR article “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World”, November 2014. Of the one hundred CEOs, a whopping 79% were promoted from within the company. Only the rest were hired from outside to lead as the CEO.

Why would this phenomenon be true? There may be several reasons:

  • Jobs require depth in thinking and attention to detail – traits that accrue and hone only with long experience. And such traits are reasonably transferable in any job.Therefore, Masters of one trade go up the ladder; Jacks of many trades keep whining.
  • Persistence is another trait of a leader – demonstrated only with staying resolute in one firm. The question in interviews are usually about whether one left an organization better prospects outside or since there was “heat” inside the organization?
  • Loyalty is rewarded. Job hopping creates some inevitable uncertainty in the mind of the board. The first question in my mind, when I see a person with several job hops is to see if the person is a corporate mercenary?

So, if you want to become the CEO, just pause before you send your resume out. Probably, that pause should be about six or more years longer than the time it takes to read this blog…

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