Giving in your notice to follow the person you work for can throw up dilemmas, says Maxine Boersma

On New Year's Day you thought about changing jobs or, at least, refining your professional image. But with February looming, you decided to stay put. Then your boss announced that 2006 is the year they're moving on to another organisation - and they'd love you to join them. Tempting.

For Karen, a London-based marketing consultant, her employer's move to the public sector and request for her to join him meant she didn't have to trawl the job market. The benefits seemed immediate. "I was really flattered to be asked," she says. "I got on with him and thought it was better to work with 'the devil you know'. I'd been meaning to change roles but needed a bit of a push."

The transition was less easy. "Almost straight away I realised I'd made a big mistake," she remembers. "The new place was so different and my boss was struggling. He'd made a rushed decision. New colleagues seemed suspicious - they were guarded in what they said. I stayed six months and it was difficult to explain to a new employer why I was moving so quickly."

Clearly there are advantages to following your leader. Your boss respects you and appreciates the scope of your ability. You've also proved you can work well together.

Ruth Colling, director with the business psychology consultancy Nicholson McBride, believes moving with your boss is a great launch pad in to a new organisation.

"The amount of personal PR you have to do when you join is much reduced as someone else is doing it for you," she says. "We find that many people struggle with change and this type of move is a way of moving on to a new position without totally having to change everything about your job." The majority of such moves happen in the City when whole teams move together, according to Colling.

Nigel Parslow, managing director of the UK executive search division of Harvey Nash, estimates that employees follow their bosses in between five and 10 per cent of all senior appointments. If anyone gains from this "contract" between employee and employer, it's more likely to be your boss (Sven-Goran Eriksson didn't reportedly claim David Beckham would follow him to Aston Villa for nothing).

By recruiting an ex-colleague, your boss will be saving time and money as well as retaining a trusted ally. They know your strengths and weaknesses and how these will complement the team. Seeing you as an injection of talent (for what may be an organisation in crisis) they will be flattered that you have considered joining them. But mutual flattery is rarely enough to ensure career progression. "Often there's a honeymoon period when you change jobs, whether you follow your boss or not," says Colling. "But this can slump when you begin to ask 'have I done the right thing?' and 'what's in it for me?'

"If your boss is also having doubts, you could both drag each other down, so things have to be put in place to prevent this happening."

Before agreeing to move, it is advisable to be brutally honest with your old boss. Do they really think your skill-set fits the new role? How will they ensure your personal development? Is the job permanent? Why did they move? You should also agree on what did/did not work well previously and how to avoid replicating bad habits in a less tolerant environment.

Decide how prepared you are to be unpopular because you might be seen as "teacher's pet" by both your old and new colleagues. And if your boss underperforms, will this jeopardise your future?

Before moving on, Imogen Haslam, professional adviser with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD,) suggests you evaluate why you are following the boss. "Is it through pure loyalty?" she asks, "or a lack of self-confidence?" If you do follow, she urges, "don't forget to find yourself a mentor, preferably outside your own department or even the organisation. This will give you a more balanced picture."

Still considering the move? Take Nigel Parslow's advice to treat such an offer as if it were a complete jump in the dark - analyse the role, organisation and long-term opportunities. If it's not what you want, no change is still an option.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development 020-8612 6200, www.cipd.co.uk

Nicholson McBride 020-7724 0232, www.nicholson-mcbride.com

Harvey Nash 020-7333 0033 www.harveynash.com

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