Loyalty vs Mercenary

When is it worth it to stay at a company?

I'm completing my PT MBA this spring and am looking at my options. My current company pays well ($105k all in as an SFA in the mid-west) and I really like my coworkers. I've gotten great performance reviews. I would love to stay, but there is a very real chance that there simply won't be a manager promo available for me.

On the flip side, I feel confident I can leverage my network and land a manager promo this year at an outside company. After dropping ~$60k on my MBA, I think I'd hate myself to not get the next jump right away.

Further context: I left my first company after 3 years. This summer it'll be 3 years with the current company. Don't want to look restless, but ABSOLUTELY do not want to wake up as a 40yo SFA.

So- how much is it worth it to stay at a company I like, even if promotions take an extra year or two? Or should I leave for the promo?

Comments (23)

Jan 8, 2022 - 12:36pm

Your company knows there's a good chance of you leaving after the completion of your MBA. It'd probably be beneficial to your career to find another job anyway based on your comments insinuating slow promotions but if you want to stay, I'd bring up the topic of how to get promoted/what you need to do and if it's achievable by the time you finish your MBA. Start recruiting immediately if the answer is not specific or if they say a promo is not possible by your matriculation.

Jan 9, 2022 - 7:43am

True. I started mentioning to my managers that a few months back what I'm targeting after graduation. My current thought is to spend the next 3 months as totally loyal (networking within the company to to find the next role). After March I'll start networking outside the company, and then after graduation I'll actively be applying to everything

Jan 9, 2022 - 7:48am

The crux here is that at my current company, there is a strong culture of internal promotion. 99% of our promos are internal. My boss and director have been very helpful with my growth, even helping me prep for interviews with other teams in the company. Great culture. I've also gotten strong reviews- I'm a rockstar to them. This is all in contrast to my previous company (F100 A&D) where even as an FLDP I felt like a bottom bucket analyst because I didn't have a passion for cost accounting.

BUT, it does seem like all the supervisors here are in their mid-early 30s. And there's a good chance no supervisor role will open in the next 6-9 months.

Do I give that all up for a promo? How much time of deference should I give them? How rare is it to find a company like that?

Jan 9, 2022 - 1:00pm

Can only offer up my experience as a data point. Note there is also title inflation depending on the company and I consider my progression to be slower than average.

-Joined a F500 post-MBA finance leadership prog as a SFA in a regional market -- was a high performer but this was a pretty competitive program and regional offices tended to see slower upward mobility vs. HQ (at least from what I saw). After 3 years, I was tired of lack of promotion and also decided I wanted to move back to U.S. and join an earlier stage growth company. When I told them I had an offer, they promised to promote me within 6 months, but I still ended up taking a strategic finance manager role at a pre-IPO company

-Did 1.5 years at the pre-IPO company, we ended up doing a strategic sale so I joined a public tech company as Senior Manager after being recruited by my group head (Director) at bullet 1 job who rated me highly

-Lasted 9 months at the public tech company doing corp FP&A, hated my experience, linked up with another direct boss at my bullet 1 role and joined as a Senior Manager at another public industrials company where she had become VP 

-Been with the industrials company a little over 4 years, was promoted to Director 3 years in after my boss left for an SVP position at a much larger public company. I took over her role and now looking at Senior Director in a few months, but also taking a side gig as part-time VP level role at a pre-IPO company working for boss from bullet 2 job

I guess in summary:

-Don't be afraid to look for outside roles if you feel there's stagnation and/or you're at a company where there's less turnover, and have a honest dialogue about career progression and prospects with your boss/HR - that's what I failed to do closely in bullet 1 job, but push come to shove when they found out I had an offer that lit a fire on them to accelerate my promotion

-Keep good relations with high performing bosses that you've done good work for because they may move on to bigger and better and need to hire trusted hands in the future

-Don't discount the potential for those above you to move on which opens up opportunities for you to step up, this is somewhat luck and timing, but if your bosses are really good they'll get promoted to bigger and better at some point -- I was about to leave my current gig about 1.5 years ago just before my was planning to leave, now I'm planning to stay to get to Senior Director before I leave because I know it's around the corner

Jan 9, 2022 - 6:35pm

This is really helpful, thanks. I'm in a similar place as your bullet 1 job- I've been here 2.5 years but haven't been focusing on moving up because I've been focused on the MBA. Been delivering strong performance, but haven't been hunting down the promo. I started sowing seeds a few months back, saying that I'm looking for a manager role post-graduation. Now that graduation is 5 months away I'm networking internally in earnest to find something.

I wouldn't say things have stagnated yet since I'm a 27-28 year old SFA.. but the question is if I should leave this summer if I don't sense the promo coming, or should I stay a year or so to let it happen? I'm not quite yet to the point where I've been waiting too long- I have 5.5 years experience as of now. But all the FP&A manager roles I see out there want 5 years, so I know it's possible (especially after finishing a top 30 MBA). I dont know if it counts as imprudent or driven to hit 6 years this summer and leave if no promo. 8 years, sure- you've waited too long. Not sure about 6 though, especially for a company I like.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Cov
Jan 9, 2022 - 10:52pm

I'd like to add another perspective here:

1. I got axed by my company, a well-regarded non-elite boutique advisory firm in a niche space in 2020. I was only 5.5 months into the job, and was performing well. I got staffed on a multi-billion dollar deal 4 months in.

2. Current bank's team is just sub-par in terms of financial analysis skills and industry knowledge. Have been here over 1 year and am actively seeking an exit.

3. You don't always want to speak to your MD and/or HR. Why would your HR even care about you? Maybe it's because I have never encountered an HR who actually cares and who can actually make any impact on anything except low-balling you with a below-average comp package. 

It really depends on whether you think your MD is a decent human being and s/he actually cares about you. I highly doubt that with my current MD. My group is not exactly a place where buy-side recruiting is encouraged and seniors pull strings to help out. It's more like hey why you leaving you ungrateful bastard. 

Jan 9, 2022 - 5:15pm

I would go mercenary. If you can bring money into the business you will always be welcomed in any place you want in finance, so I wouldn't get to emotional and instead I would keep improving my value professionally (rank, comp, etc.).

Jan 10, 2022 - 5:39am

Everyone's advise here appears to be along the lines of "you're replaceable to the company, so be mercenary and leave". But is this really true? Sure, you're a replacable cog if you work in some cut-throat bank or tech firm on the coasts, but this little midwestern firm looks like it's run by actual people as opposed to greedy and power-hungry reptiles in suits. If they've been good to you, maybe you'd end up with a happier life by being good to them back and help build their company up? Trust me, I've worked in dog-eat-dog environments, and whilst it will push you hard and make you develop, the way one is forced to act (i.e., very selfishly) can leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Jan 11, 2022 - 2:33pm

Yeah, this is a midwestern company- F500, but very regional (utility company). I really like the people and the work and the pay, but in this housing market I'm watching the house I can get for my price range shrink smaller and smaller.. I gave up buying a house to get my MBA.

So how long should I wait for a promo at a company I like? If I knew that I would get a promo here a year from now (6 months after graduation), I would wait- even if that meant giving up a promo at an external company immediately after graduation. Wait for 2 years? probably not. 3 years? Hell no. My old FLDP peers are getting manager promos now and I'm not one to be left behind.

Most Helpful
Jan 11, 2022 - 5:59pm

Stop viewing employment as anything other than you exchanging your time and skills for money. That's all it is- it's a business transaction at its core. Think about it from the employer's viewpoint. When they give you generous PTO, raises every year, etc., they're not doing it because they like you; they do it because they ran the numbers and throwing some money at you is cheaper than risking losing you and having to find a replacement. That being said, if you feel underpaid but enjoy your work, stay. Nothing wrong with that. The qualitative aspects of work are sometimes more important than money.

Three years is a long time at a job by today's standards. I'm 30 and have never stayed anywhere longer than two years. I have several gaps in my resume from being laid off due to corporate restructurings as well. If you have the skillset and can speak confidently about it, no one cares.

$105K is a nice chunk of change, especially in a LCOL area like the Midwest, but I would leave ASAP if that were my post-MBA salary.

Jan 12, 2022 - 11:55am

Agreed- I would not consider staying because of loyalty alone. Its more the question of if I should leave in order to get a promo 6 months faster. I would think that getting promoted at my current company would look better, and I could keep the relationships, ratings, company knowledge, and network that I've built here. That is the crux of my question- all those intangibles. Are they worth 6 months of waiting? 1 year?

Jan 11, 2022 - 6:43pm

Just another data point and some advice:

I have 6 years of experience incl. 1 year of leave (travel, personal reasons, etc) so really just 5 years and will be moving from Big 4 finance consulting to an industrials company as a manager in strategic finance. You are right at the sweet spot to get promoted to manager, especially with an MBA. I was personally willing to wait another year to get promoted to manager at my Big 4 but figured I'd look around given the hot market. I'm pretty glad I did because companies are willing to pay - I'm getting a 25-30% increase.

I'd advise the following: Within a 5-12 month (max) time frame, you should start looking for manager positions elsewhere while concurrently push aggressively for a manager promo at your current firm. Regardless of the Loyalty vs Mercenary conundrum, knowing your worth and willing to fight for it is really what's important.  

Jan 12, 2022 - 12:09pm

That is really helpful to know what the market is like out there. I think where I am landing is that I'll push hard/network for an internal promo for the next 3 months and see what kind of reactions I get. It also gets me through the heavy period of my MBA where it wouldn't be ideal to change jobs/companies. Then in April I network externally and see what reactions I get. If there seems to be nothing on the horizon, I start dropping apps in May/June.

I assume you are a CPA- what kind of range was your offer at the company?

Jan 20, 2022 - 4:04pm

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