We all get frustrated with our jobs from time to time, and in those moments, you might find yourself looking at your coworkers with envy, thinking about how easy they have it, or how much more exciting the work they're doing is. It's perfectly normal to have those thoughts on occasion, but if you begin spending the majority of your time at work wishing you had someone else's job, it might be worth exploring a new career path.
Before you start looking for work at other companies, though, it's worth seeing which new positions are available at your current organization. Not only is your current employer more likely to take a chance on you — after all, you've (hopefully) already proven yourself — many companies specifically have programs that facilitate internal transfers of employees.
Of course, successfully transitioning to a new role requires some careful navigation. So if you're looking to make a lateral move at your current company, follow these guidelines.
Do: Educate Yourself
It’s easy to look at the other open roles in your company with a “grass is always greener on the other side” mindset. But jumping into a career transition without doing in-depth research is a recipe for failure. First things first, look up your company’s policies on lateral movements.
“It’s important to show respect to the policies and guidelines that an employer has in place so that your organization has the ability to be consistent in their processes and allow for you, as the candidate for transfer, the best possible experience,” says Julia Missaggia, Senior Director of Human Resources at CMI/Compas.
You should also research the particular opportunity that you’re interested in.
“Do your best to learn as much as possible about the potential role you're looking to move into. Speak to people who are currently doing that role, sit in on their meetings, take notes, ask questions. This shows how interested you are and helps to prepare you for your new position,” advises Jav Saeidi, Employee Experience Manager at PathFactory.
Do: Reach Out to Your Manager
You might feel nervous talking to your manager about potentially leaving your team, but this step is critical.
“You need to do this before you approach anyone else about the move — if not, your manager may feel skipped over or worked around,” says recruiter and career coach EB Sanders. “You want to work with them on this.”
And if you’ve made up your mind that you want to apply to another role, make sure that you lay out a compelling argument about why you should be allowed to do so.
“Frame your transfer request in terms of how it will benefit the company,” suggests Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC. “Good reasons for a transfer include being able to add more value for the company because of XYZ; building new skills, which will benefit the company in XYZ ways; moving into a role that is a better fit, which will benefit the company because of XYZ.”
Don’t: Give Ultimatums
It’s one thing to let your manager know you’re interested in transferring positions — it’s another entirely to threaten to, or even hint that you’ll quit unless you’re given the job you have your eye on. For one, your manager may not have the ultimate say in whether or not your transfer request is approved.
“There may be a lot of details going on in the background which you're not privy to,” Saeidi says.
What’s more, there’s no better way to ruin your chances of getting what you want than by displaying a bad attitude.
“Nothing makes a potential transfer option less likely to happen than when you start demanding things from your current and future managers,” Saeidi adds.
Do: Be Patient
It’s hard to wait for a response when you want to hear it ASAP, but something as big and potentially complex as an internal transfer requires a lot of thought on the part of your current manager, your potential new manager, the HR team and more.
“ Your boss has plenty of factors to consider including time spent in your current role, evaluating your current skill set, the business case and, if the discussion is fruitful, the transition plan. Sometimes, job rotations are also handcuffed by company policies… your job is [to] present your case and watch where it goes,” says Ketan Kapoor, CEO & Co-Founder of Mettl. “However, it’s important to stay vocal about your concerns for your request to be considered in the right light.”
Don’t: Sulk if You Don’t Get Your Way
It’s okay to be disappointed if you don’t get the green light to switch roles, but it’s not okay to publicly mope.
“How well you handle disappointment will have a huge impact on how others perceive your upward potential,” says Amy Sanchez, career coach and founder of Swim Against the Current. “Find a way to manage your disappointment outside of work and take comfort in the fact that another opportunity will come, whether within or outside the company.”
If you give it some time, you might even be able to revisit the idea in your future.
“If your request gets denied, give yourself some space and think about a new angle to pitch and persuade your boss,” Kapoor recommends.
Do: Prepare for the Interview
On the other hand, if you do get the go-ahead to apply to a different internal position, make sure that you adequately prepare for the interview. Assuming that you’re a shoe-in just because you already work at the company is a near-guaranteed way to get passed over for the job.
“Treat it as you would any other interview. Be prepared to highlight your relevant skills, ensure you answer the questions asked, convey why you’re a good fit and ask pertinent questions that demonstrate why you are interested in the role,” says Robert Glazer, Founder & CEO of Acceleration Partners. “And don’t forget to send a thank-you note following your interview. We’ve seen employees make the mistake of acting too casual in an internal interview setting, especially if they know the person well and they’ve been working together for years.”
Don’t: Prematurely Blab to the Whole Office
Changing roles within a company is oftentimes a sensitive issue, and when things like start dates, reporting structures or even whether or not you’ll get the job are still up in the air, you don’t want everyone in the office to be asking questions.
“Until the paperwork has been signed and your transfer is official, don't tell other members of your organization,” Saeidi cautions. “It's best to wait it out and make sure everything is finalized before sharing.”
Not sure whether or not you can tell your office buddies?
“Check in with both managers to make sure they're ready for you to start spreading the news,” Saedi says.
Do: Create a Transition Plan
To avoid hurt feelings with your former manager, and start things off on the right foot with your new manager, a clear transition plan is a must.
“Set up a meeting with your manager or your successor to co-create a transition plan. Discuss any hot issues or things to be aware of or upcoming meetings,” says Tammy Perkins, Chief People Officer of Fjuri.
Not only will this set you up for success — it will also help ensure that the transfer actually goes through.
“Even if everyone agrees the move is a go, with no plan, it won't go anywhere,” Sanders warns.
Don’t: Check Out on the Job
So you’ve got the job and have a clear plan of how and when you’re going to transfer over your existing responsibilities. You can just coast until you start your new position, right? Not so fast.
“Remember, you’re looking to stay within your organization, and reputation precedes itself. If you stop giving it your all in your current role, word of mouth may spread, and a new hiring manager may be reluctant to work with you,” Missaggia explains. “Your goal is to maintain your reputation as a great employee, and continue to show your commitment to the organization your with, even if you’re not currently working [for] the ideal department or team you have envisioned just yet.”
Do: Get Ready for Your New Role
Just because your official start date hasn’t arrived doesn’t mean you can’t do some prep work. To ensure you hit the ground running, begin building relationships with your team and learning more about what you’ll be doing and how you can succeed at it.
“Get to know everyone on your new team individually. Set up 1:1 appointments to get to know everyone on a personal level to increase the [odds] of a seamless integration onto your new team,” Sanchez recommends.
This is also a prime time to connect with your soon-to-be manager and ask if there are any resources you should review or research you should start.
Don’t: Doubt Yourself
Trying new things is scary, especially because you’re not always great at them right away. So if you don’t instantly succeed, don’t give up right away.
“Don’t look back if you make the leap. Once you’ve accepted a new role, commit to it wholeheartedly,” advises Sarah Connors, Principal/Manager in the HR Staffing division at WinterWyman. “Expect that for the first few months, it will be tough to learn a new skill or area, but give it your best. You made this move for a reason, so trust yourself.”