How to “Make it to the Top” in Your Career, Without Climbing the Corporate Ladder

How to “Make it to the Top” in Your Career, Without Climbing the Corporate Ladder

I read an inspiring post the other day on LinkedIn by Chris Anders of Albior Financial Recruitment based in the UK.


Chris said that he reached out to a candidate about a new job opportunity. The opportunity was a step up from the candidate’s current role and he had the right skill set and work experience to make the leap.


So it seemed like a no-brainer.


However, the candidate’s response was:


Sorry, but I am not interested. I already made it to the top.


“[This candidate] wasn’t anywhere near the top. He would have needed binoculars to see the top. He wasn’t even a manager yet.” – Chris Anders


The candidate proceeded to tell Chris what he means by “making it to the top”.


Here are the 6 reasons he gave with some of my thoughts on each:

He loved the exact work he did each day, 

I totally agree with this. This is something that so many people take for granted. Do you enjoy what you do? Yes, the work is hard and sometimes frustrating. But do you get satisfaction from a completed task or finding a solution to a problem? It is so easy to move to a new job because the money is better or the title is higher.

Thankfully, I can honestly answer “yes” to this as I consider my own career.



He loved his company

Companies that have good workplace dynamics and helpful policies geared toward employees are rare. I have worked in companies where I was just a number and it didn’t give me a strong sense of security.

Currently, I work in an organization where the senior director knows me by name.

The communal culture of the office starts with the top and it makes a difference.


He was treated fairly and with respect

In a previous post, I mentioned that life is too short to work for a horrible boss. The opposite is also true: if you have a good boss, stick with him or her. Treating people with respect goes a long way. Having a supervisor who treats you fairly and respectfully is life-giving.

I am sure we all have stories of being treated disrespectfully or unfairly by a boss. It makes Mondays the worst day of the week.


He made enough money to be comfortable

What “comfortable” means is up to you. It is all about perspective. You don’t need a big house or a luxury car to be “comfortable.” It looks different for everyone.

Find your “comfortable.”


He had excellent benefits

Many people take this for granted. I would argue that this is important enough to be factored in your annual salary. My friend who works on a 100% commission based salary has a $6K health insurance deductible and still has a monthly premium that is more than what I pay in rent. Having good benefits makes a huge difference. Especially when kids come into the picture.

Having good benefits makes a huge difference. Especially when kids come into the picture.


He had flexibility

Depending on your industry, this could be hard to come by. For me, my job has very strict hours with no flex time. I know other people who have summer Friday’s off and a week off for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. To be clear, these days are days the whole office is closed, so it is not factored into vacation time.

Flexibility at work can’t be quantified because it is that important.


He’s never missed a single football game, school play, birthday, or any family event

This is number 1 for me. I want to be there for my two daughters. Especially in my community, there are many kids who have absent fathers. I want to be a part of a movement of African-American dads who want to break the absentee father stereotype.

I prefer not to spend most of my life at work.


Chris ends the story like this:

The candidate knew what taking the next step in his career meant. More time, travel, and sacrifice.

 “Not worth it,” he said.



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27 Comments on "How to “Make it to the Top” in Your Career, Without Climbing the Corporate Ladder"

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I get that. I made it pretty high in my corporate career and enjoyed most of it until the very end when it got kind of toxic. I was making well up in the six figures W when I walked away to early retirement. In the two years since I’ve been offered a high as seven figures to go back to that industry and it never took me than a few seconds to feel a whole heart “no way!” My side gigging two work day week with lots of volunteering is just way too good to trade for money I… Read more »

That job description really would be the top. Is that a true story? Does that job really exist? Maybe one day each of us can find a job like that. Personally, I think getting to FI where you don’t need the money gives you the better chance of finding it.

Amy @ Life Zemplified

This post reminds me of my husband and a few coworkers. Their jobs tick off these 6 things fairly well and they aren’t interested in moving up the ladder to more hours, travel and stress even for more money. They’ve seen too many others burnout from it. Kudos to you for putting your family first too!


Great post. I have had similar feelings during my career. It is perfectly ok to be happy where you are. It might even be better than trying to climb the corporate ladder. Being content in life and having serenity is priceless.


So happy to see you featured on Rockstar Finance this morning. Love this guy’s perspective on reaching the top. May we all be so wise.

And you ain’t neva lied about them benefits. Bay-bee!!! They. Are. Everything. (Insert hand claps at the periods)


Great article about careers and happiness! It’s not always about where you sit on the organizational hierarchy. Some people are wise enough to know what they want from their careers and to stick to that.

Peerless Money Mentor

Wow, congrats on being featured on Rockstar! It’s all about perspective!

Adam @ Minafi

Great post! It hits close to home because I’ve been in this EXACT situation. I was looking around for other jobs, mostly out of curiosity, and got a job offer with a decent raise (50%+). I looked at similar categories and realized this would make me much less happy. I really like this checklist for determining that though – taking a look at these beforehand on the same level as salary (or even higher) can be eye-opening (it was for me).

Mike - Budget Kitty

The thing many people don’t realize is that promotions and salary increases won’t necessarily make you any happier. Each step you take up the corporate ladder brings added responsibilities and demands on your time. Yes, you should have a higher salary but at what cost? Many people value a flexible schedule and less stress over a fancy title and an office.

Sean @ FrugalMoneyMan
Interesting post! I came from a company that paid almost half of what I make now, but the executives knew me by name and my benefits were ALOT better than they are at my new company. I definitely enjoy making more money at my new company, but I definitely feel more like the number you reference in your post. It is definitely a balance that every individual has to decide for themself. That is why the journey to financial independence is so important. Once you achieve that independence, then money doesn’t even play a factor for you in the work… Read more »

[…] 8. How to “Make It to the Top” in Your Career, Without Climbing the Corporate Ladder by Wealth Rehab […]

Peerless Money Mentor

Congrats on making it to the Rockstar Rumble, Bro!

Really, really good post! I totally get this. It seems that climbing the ladder, makes one too important at work and leaves you little options in terms of leveraging for time. A few years ago, I realized that I had hit the sweet spot in my career and I would not be happier with any more responsibility, more work hours, a different (more advanced) title or needing to climb any sort of ladder. The joy of a 4 day workweek left me ample time and income to do what was important to me. Now, I’m at a different crossroads and… Read more »
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early

This is such a hard thing to do well – but a powerful one. It’s so important to catch yourself and make sure you actually WANT that promotion, not that it just makes you feel good to get promoted