Ask Gary: Stay or Go?

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison answers your career questions. First up: Do I take the offer on the table or stay where I am?

I’m a 28-year-old manager and I’ve been in this job for three years. I just got an offer with a 15 percent increase in pay. I do like my company but feel like I need a change. Should I stay or should I go in the new year?

-        Sincerely, Halfway Out the Door


Ultimately, it comes down to one question: Are you running away from something—or are you going toward something? Ideally, every job change should move you one step closer toward your bigger goal of advancement.

The question used to be, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Now, it’s just two or three years out. Where do you want to be, and what can get you there? What skills, networking, relationships and, most of all, learning will you gain with this next move that you can, in turn, parlay into the future.

Now, let’s assume that this new job could move you toward your goal. Before you accept any offer, you need to find out:

·       Do you know your boss? People overlook this one all the time. Having a great boss is the best thing that can happen to your career. When I look back on my own professional life, I can think of four jobs I took because of who I would work for and how much I would learn. That’s why, as part of the hiring process, you need to engage with your future boss to find out about their goals and priorities, communication style, and leadership. Ask around so you can get a clearer picture of what it would be like to work for this boss. It comes down to fit—for you, your career, and your new boss.

·       Who will you learn from and how? This is the question almost no one asks—and that’s a missed opportunity. The best reason to take any new job is what you will learn. Not convinced? Our firm says the No. 1 predictor of success is learning agility: the ability to apply experiences and lessons learned to new and first-time situations—or, as I call it, knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. It’s as simple as this: you need to learn more if you want to earn more.

·       Is this a rung in your ladder? You can’t assume that your next job will automatically advance your career. After all, careers are like ladders with rungs that can take you up—or down. That’s why, before you make a move, you need to consider your overall career path. For example, when I look at someone’s online profile, I want to see their “logos”—the companies they’ve worked for—and, more importantly, the expanding responsibilities with each job they’ve had. This track record is one way in which I gauge what their future success could look like. Whatever your progression looks like, you need to ask yourself: Is this a rung to help me step up in my career ladder?

Stay or go? Only you will know what’s the best move. But first, understand what you’re moving toward.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of The Five Graces of Life and Leadership.


Leadership and career questions? Ideas? Insights? Drop me an email at and I’ll see if I can address it in the next column. The guidance benefits everyone, and names will not be used.