The Chief of Staff role has become incredibly prominent across companies of all sizes, stages, and sectors. Due to the high variability of Chief of Staff job descriptions, the jobs that CoS can “graduate” into are also highly varied.
Our goal for undertaking this research is to assist current and future Chiefs of Staff in understanding their possible career pathways and advocating to achieve them. We collected data about “graduated” Chiefs of Staff (i.e. those who moved onto another role) and considered demographic factors such as gender, location, and education, as well as the seniority levels, functions, and roles that these graduates find themselves in today.
We analyzed publicly available data on ~400 alumni of the Chief of Staff Network, spanning educational history, work history, skills, endorsements, location, and more. We painstakingly combed through this unstructured data to remove erroneous information and verified collected data to the extent possible.
However, we do acknowledge that public data from sources such as LinkedIn, just like self-reported survey data, can have faults, especially around credential and title inflation. LinkedIn is social media, after all. With that said, we have made best efforts to draw statistically significant conclusions about the Chief of Staff role and its potential graduation pathways. With about ~30,000 for-profit CoS globally, our data will get us to a confidence level of 95%, so you can rest assured knowing it’s reliable.
Whither Chief of Staff?
One of the most common questions we hear from Chiefs of Staff is: “where do I go from here?”
Chiefs of Staff take on diverse operational, strategic, and cross-functional execution responsibilities. With such breadth, Chiefs of Staff are a unique group that could genuinely step into any role. But freedom of choice can bring analysis paralysis. This report will shed light on common paths for graduating Chiefs of Staff, including:
Staying at Your Current Company in a Leadership Role:
Many former Chiefs of Staff choose to stay with their current organization due to their deep connections and understanding of the business, both internally and externally. They often transition into senior operations or strategy roles, such as Vice President or Chief Operating Officer, leveraging their CoS experience for broader management roles. While this option provides continuity, it may be challenging to fully detach from your CoS duties and establish new boundaries.
Leaving Your Current Company for a Non-CoS Role:
This is a common choice, driven by potential CoS burnout or a misalignment with the company's long-term vision. Former Chiefs of Staff often pursue leadership positions in strategy, operations, corporate development, or many other functional areas, depending on their past experience. While this transition offers independence, it involves rebuilding trust and rapport with a new executive team.
Leaving Your Current Company for Another Chief of Staff Role:
Some individuals opt to continue their journey as a Chief of Staff, either due to a genuine passion for the role or external factors like company changes or personal relocations. The advantage here is that you already know the role, minimizing the learning curve. However, it may be perceived as a short-term role in some organizations, and burnout is a common concern.
Starting Your Own Business:
Leveraging the unique insights gained from the CoS role, some former Chiefs of Staff become entrepreneurs. They use their credibility and experience to start and grow businesses, but this path is challenging and not a guaranteed ticket to success. However, past failures in the corporate world can serve as valuable lessons. Starting your own business allows you to manage it according to your vision and potentially even involve your former employer as a client, depending on the services you offer.
Here are a couple example Chief of Staff Pathways - there are more in the report!
If you’d like to discuss the report and elevate your career through peer support, upskilling, and thought leadership, join the Chief of Staff Network. We invite you to apply here.