Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Martin Yate By Martin Yate October 3, 2016

​When trying to advance your career, should you fight for a promotion at your current employer or look for a job with a better title in a different organization? Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.  

I have worked as an assistant manager in human resources for an NGO (non-governmental organization) for the past two years. I recently passed the SHRM-CP exam and I'm now looking for some career advancement. Should I work hard to get ahead in my own organization or switch employers? Can you please guide?

Muhammad Ali,


Typically, we get higher-ranking jobs by being promoted by our current employer, instead of finding a higher position at another organization. Current employees are a known quantity and companies like to promote from within. Meanwhile, job offers are typically made based on a candidate's proven credentials, not his or her potential, so the kind of job we land when making a strategic career move tends to be similar to the job we hold now. A change of employers instead represents a chance to join an environment with better growth opportunity and reinvent yourself for that growth in the process.

Apply the following advice where you currently work first, while simultaneously taking the time to upgrade your resume, and your job search and interviewing skills, so that you will be fully prepared to make a strategic career move if an internal promotion does not materialize. This advice will apply when you land in a new company, too.

In every department, company and industry, there is an inner circle and an outer circle. The inner circle is where the plum assignments, raises and promotions occur. It's where you become visible to the power players who are one, two, three or four levels above you—the managers who can make your career growth possible.

If you realize that you are not in the inner circle, you should work to change your situation. Make the following commitments and you will gain acceptance by the people who make up the inner circles within your department and within your company:

  • Promise to become your best in every aspect of your job.
  • Commit to the success of every project, every team and every department with which you are involved. 
  • Get behind every project leader, no matter who it is. In each instance, work to make both that project and the leader a success.
  • Give your best on even undesirable assignments, because you know that taking the good with the bad is critical to success.
  • Volunteer to do essential tasks that your peers consider below them.
  • Work harder than others. Turn out an exceptional product. Treat everyone, regardless of rank, with the same professionalism and kindness. Always do more than expected. With these actions, you identify yourself as worthy of more responsibility. Once you have shown superior skills with all your job's deliverables and are known to the power players, the odds of taking the next step up the promotion ladder increase.
  • Model yourself on the people who do your target job successfully—if not at your current organization, then find these individuals through local association meetings and online groups. Look for a mentor who is doing this job now and ask for help with your professional growth, offering to help that person in return in ways they might find valuable.

When a position opens up, a company normally first looks within and then goes outside to look for talent. Those outside applicants come armed with resumes that carefully focus on the skills they can bring to the target job. Sometimes, busy managers may not be as well-informed about your skills and capabilities. You should prepare in the same way as your competition, creating a resume targeted to the needs of the job and then preparing for an interview, just as you would for a job with another company.

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!


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