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Career Advice

How to Ask for an Office Transfer

Posted by Emily Moore

Last Updated October 15, 2018
|6 min read

Maybe your current location doesn't quite gel with your personality. Maybe you want to be closer to family. Or maybe you're a wanderer, never content to stay in one place too long. Whatever the case, many people find themselves itching to explore new cities. If you're dreading the job search that will come with it, though, remember: there are other options.

If you happen to be employed at a company with multiple branches, or if you think your company would be open to the possibility of you working remotely, asking for a transfer could be a great way to accommodate your desire for a new environment while still keeping the job that you love.

Make no mistake, though — securing a transfer isn't as easy as simply announcing a move to your employer. To get them on board, you'll need to think and act strategically.

1. Do Your Homework

When requesting a transfer, research is critical — it makes the difference between coming to your employer with a well thought out proposal and an unreasonable demand.

“Don't ask for something if you haven't researched whether or not it's feasible,” says Erica Perkins, Director, Human Resources Business Partners at Glassdoor. “Find out what your employer policy is on location transfers and (if international) global mobility programs and assignments/expatriation.”

If you are planning on going international, pay especially close attention to immigration and labor laws.

“The feasibility and duration of an international transfer depends largely on the type of employment authorization available in the new location, which varies country-by-country,” Perkins adds. “Know what you're getting into with respect to an international move, as there are significant differences in employment practices and regulations, as well as tax implications that are important to know before you determine you want to move.”

Besides the nitty-gritty legal details, you should also consider what else you’ll need to be successful there.

“For employees considering a role in another country, they should consider the language and culture changes that may be associated with an international move. What additional competencies might you need to be successful there?” says Mark Eckert, Internal Mobility Head at Uber.

2. Think About it From an Employer’s Perspective

For employers, facilitating an internal transfer is often an investment — one that should ultimately pay off for them. So it’s worth thinking about it from their perspective: What factors do they have to take into account before making their decision? And how will transferring you to a different office be beneficial to them?

“Cost is often top-of-mind for employers when it comes to their internal mobility programs,” Eckert shares.

In addition, “employers would need to consider 1) is there a compelling business case for the change in office/location, 2) does the employee moving offices/locations provide added benefits to the business (not just to the individual)? (e.g., having the employee work with other teams, cross-pollination, knowledge-sharing, as well as establishing a footprint for that business function in another location, etc). 3) What are the individual benefits for the employee (ability to accommodate a request generates loyalty and is motivational for the employee [which can] help with retention) and 4) Can the employee bring additional value to the business in the new location?” Perkins says.

Keep in mind that if you have already proven your value to the company, they will be more likely to entertain your request.

"The first thing a company considers when an employee requests a transfer is how valuable they perceive the employee to be. The more a company wants to keep them, the more flexible the company will be,” says career coach Angela Copeland. “A company would be most interested to transfer an employee wishing to grow their professional skills in a new location. But, if they value the employee, they may also respect their desire to relocate for personal reasons, such as to be closer to family.”

3. State Your Case

With a solid understanding of what exactly a move will require from your employer, as well as what would make transferring you worth their time, you’re ready to initiate the conversation.

The best way to effectively state your case is to articulate your ability to thrive and add value in the roles you are interested in, much like how you would if you were searching for new opportunities outside of your current company,” Eckert says. “How does your past experience and technical expertise apply to the new role? What can you bring to the role/team that will make you stand out against other internal and/or external candidates?”

“Make sure you are clear on the reasons for your request, and help articulate how your move may help improve the business beyond your own self-interest,” Perkins adds. Sensing reluctance on your employer’s end? “Offer to do the move for a mutually agreed trial period if your employer is hesitant to make a commitment,” she suggests.

Depending on your employer, you may even want to create a formal presentation for them, just as you would for a project at work.

“The most effective request I have seen for an internal transfer to a new city came from a woman interested to move from Memphis to Dallas. She created an entire presentation to sell her boss on the idea that she could work remotely. Then, the boss was able to use the same presentation to sell the idea to upper management,” Copeland says. “The move worked well for both the employee and the company.”

4. Set Yourself Up for Success

If your request is granted, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do beforehand to ensure a smooth transition.

“Do everything you can to ensure you hit the ground running. Set up time with your new manager and team to start getting up-to-speed before you leave,” Eckert suggests.

You may even want to visit your new city and office before you make your move.

“Before you take the plunge, be sure to tour the new office and the new city. Moving is a big decision. You want to make the right choice the first time,” Copeland shares.

And if you’re going international, “develop your cross-cultural competency,” Perkins suggests. “Besides honing language skills, study and educate yourself the customs and culture of your new locale. Important cultural differences can be very subtle (things like how you greet someone, body language, making eye contact, etc.). Don't make the mistake of assuming that the 'way you did it at home' will work in your new location.”

And if you didn’t get the green light on your request to switch offices? Don’t worry — all is not necessarily lost.

“Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find a fit immediately. Business landscapes change quickly and so will the opportunities available internally at your company,” Eckert shares.


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