Switching Jobs Within a Company
August 02, 2019

Have you ever considered switching jobs at work? As an executive coach, I often help my clients noodle through this transition. Together, we explore the client’s professional goals, create a plan, and execute it so they can achieve their desired job. This article explores strategies, questions, actions, and tools that can help you make this transition.

How should I approach switching jobs within my company?

This is a great (and very popular) question. The answer is: It’s unique to each individual and organization. Regardless of where you work or what you do, it’s important to assess yourself and your organizational landscape.

These are some contemplation questions you should explore. As you explore these questions, others may come up for you. Follow them where they take you. Be sure to document your responses.

  • Why do I want to switch jobs?

    • What interests me in switching jobs at this time?

    • What do I hope to learn or gain from changing jobs?

    • What new job do I want? What attracts me to it?

  • How prepared am I to make this switch?

    • What's my personal brand at the organization? What specialties or strengths do I bring to the new role?

    • Are there any new skills I should develop, or habits to change, before pursuing a job switch?

    • How will my transition impact my current team? My new team? My personal life?

  • How do I make this switch?

    • What relationships do I need to leverage or build to make this transition possible?

    • How do I make this transition without burning meaningful bridges?

    • Are there other people in my organization who have made this change that I should speak to?

    • What’s my timeline to make this switch?

Answering these questions helps clarify what you want and puts parameters around your pursuit. Your responses will inform your job-change plan. A job-change plan details your ideal job and what you need to do to land it. What are your strengths and development opportunities? Who is your support network? What milestones and target dates are you working toward? Your plan also helps you articulate your request when the time is right.

What are some ways that I can switch jobs within my current company?

Companies expose their talent to new opportunities in a variety of ways. If you are not familiar with your company’s process, talk to Human Resources and/or trusted leaders to learn. Leverage their knowledge to find out the best way to pursue your desired job. What are your options? What will be involved in the process? These are a few common ways to make a smooth, internal job switch:

1. Rotational Programs: These allow people to try jobs outside of their hired position. Selected talent is exposed to one or several jobs over a set period of time. The talent may transition back into their original job, stay in the rotational job, or find a new job once their time ends. These are often competitive programs. Having a strong personal brand and leadership support is helpful, if not required. These are great for expanding your network, building new skills, and identifying jobs that are a long-term fit.

2. Staffing Cross-functional Projects: Has a stakeholder ever approached you to help with that special XYZ initiative? Raising your hand and saying yes to that project, the one that progresses toward your desired job and helps the organization execute, can make a huge impact on your career. The bonus? More visibility. It gives you a chance to share your expertise, learn about other functions, build relationships, and show your value to a broader audience. Understanding your organization's broader strategy and its top priorities is crucial for you to be able to identify high-impact cross-functional projects. Don't necessarily wait for someone to approach you; seek these opportunities out and volunteer, or, even better, suggest a project that you can then lead.

3. Approaching Other Leaders: Leveraging the relationships we have with other teams or leaders can help bring a job switch to life. When you share your goals, people have an opportunity to help you connect the dots. Book time with decision makers and those who can champion your effort. They may know just the person you need to speak to…or they may be that person themselves. Make it easy for them to help you. Take care in delivering your message and be transparent about any obstacles they may help you move past.

Consider these contemplation questions as you think about the internal options for securing a new job:

  • What avenues are available to change my job within the company?

  • Are any of these avenues preferred or quietly frowned upon at my company?

  • For people who have successfully made a change like this, what did they do to make this happen? What lessons did they learn?

  • If I pursue one or more of these avenues, and I’m successful, how do I want to proceed?

  • If I pursue one or more of these avenues without success, how do I want to proceed?

How do I have a conversation about switching my job with my manager and stakeholders?

Fast forward. You’ve done the research, identified the job, and created a job-change plan. You’re ready to start proactively sharing your goals and you want to garner support. Preparation is paramount. Fortunately, outputs from the previous exercise help you plan for your stakeholder conversations. Having a clear intention and ask is just the start. You should be prepared to:

  1. Tell your manager what job you'd like.

  2. Tell them why. (Make sure that it's about your career growth or path; not about any issues you have with your manager.)

  3. Have a defined ask from your manager:

    • "I need your support to do this. Can you advocate for me to...?"

    • “I would like you to refer me for the company’s rotational program."

    • "There are some projects where I can help without formally switching teams. Can I carve out time to work on them?"

  4. Have a point of view on your transition. Be prepared to talk through a reasonable transition and/or impact mitigation plan.

Before a critical conversation, I encourage clients to use “real play,” or to practice the conversation with someone they trust. They can play out various scenarios or responses that may happen in the conversation, get feedback, and adjust accordingly. It also helps build confidence around sharing job-change plans.

What happens next?

You’ve prepared. You’ve practiced. You’ve had the conversation. What happened? What’s next?

  • You’ve got the support you want.

    • Congratulations! Your hard work and planning has paid off! What do you need to make the transition and start your new job with confidence?

  • You’ve gotten a lukewarm reception to your ideas. How do you want to handle this situation?

    • Making an internal change takes time and negotiation. For a variety of reasons, it’s possible that you do not hear a resounding “Yes!” with your first request. Take some time to reflect on what is slowing your progress. Ask questions. What needs to happen in order for you to get to yes with your manager? Is it within your control? Theirs? Is it something that you’re willing to wait for?

  • You’ve been told that making this change is not an opportunity for you, at this time, with your current organization. What are your next steps?

    • There are a number of reasons why your request may be denied. It may be related to resource planning, budgeting, performance, strategy, or other factors. Regardless of the reason, I challenge clients to anticipate this and not react defensively. Instead, I encourage them to take the opportunity to ask questions and explore what is possible. Then use that information to determine next steps.

Switching jobs takes work and tenacity! Being aware of your goals, creating a plan, and executing it thoughtfully will help reduce some of the mystique you may encounter as you strive to make your internal transition.

For your convenience, we’ve made the Switching Jobs contemplation questions, Job-change Template, Internal Options for Switching Jobs contemplation questions, and Stakeholder Conversation Plan preparation questions available in a Google Doc that you can copy and use for yourself.

Written by
Kim Shope

Kim Shope is an executive coach and consultant at Shope On Purpose, located in Portland, OR. She is a Certified Hudson Institute Coach and an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF). She’s also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a PwC Six Sigma Green Belt. Kim holds an MPH, in Health Policy and Management, from Emory University and BA’s in Psychology and Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin. She sits on the Board of the Women’s Center for Leadership. Kim is a mom, spouse, and entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, exercise and sports, time with loved ones, reading, and finding new adventures --near home or afar.

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