A plum position opens up in a different department in your company. You think you’d be the perfect fit and would jump at the opportunity but what will your current manager think? And what if you don’t get it? What message will you be sending?
Six experts weigh in below on the pros and cons of applying for a new position in-house.
With job-hopping the new norm among millennials, many employers should be happy that their workers are applying in-house rather than elsewhere. Steve Gibson, director of JotForm, an online form builder, based in San Francisco
Proceed with caution. “Companies go to great lengths to hire people and organise everyone so they can work productively together,” said Gibson. “When you announce you want a different position, you run the risk of making the following statements: I don’t like my job; I don’t like my team or boss; my needs and desires are more important to me than the company’s; I’m not reliable; I’m quitting.”
Before making such a move, Gibson suggests asking yourself a series of questions. “How long were you in your current role? If it’s too short, then who’s to say you won’t want to move on from you next one, too? Do you have the skills for the new role? Let’s say you’d like to switch to a more technical role, or a managerial position; what have you done to prepare for it? Is your switch in line with the needs of the company? Will it be hard to find someone to replace you?”
If you’re still set on applying for the other position, don’t hide it. “Communicate well with your current manager,” said Gibson. “Let them know you’re thinking of switching before applying for the other position. Getting their support is important for a successful transition.”
Ann Marie van den Hurk, principal at Mind the Gap Public Relations, LLC, based in North Carolina
Honesty is still the best policy. “It comes down to where you want to be in your career,” said van den Hurk, who, over a 10-year period at one company, worked in four different positions. “If your current position isn’t working for you, then why not go for a position that interests you and allows you to use your skills fully?”
Van den Hurk was honest with her bosses about why she wanted to move. “I finally moved to where I wanted to be and [where] my skills were best suited to excel in the organisation,” she said. “I never worried about how the move was perceived. I was focused on where I needed to go career-wise.” While she was watching her career, the organisation was focused on retaining employees and encouraging them to grow within it. “I was lucky to be in that environment. And as a boss, when an employee shared they were looking at another position, I was supportive of them and sad of course, but understanding everyone must grow and leave.”
Paul Myers, internal recruitment manager at NonStop Recruitment, based in London
More understanding than you might think. “It’s important to remember that any manager worth their salt isn’t going to take the idea of you applying for a new role personally,” said Myers. “It’s business, it happens.”
But you should discuss your plans, especially if your company doesn't have a defined process for internal moves. “It’s courteous, will show them you respect them and they’ll probably only find out for themselves further down the line, which could make it look like you’re hiding something,” said Myers. If you are honest and frank about your intentions and reasons for wanting to make the move, it’s likely they’ll understand, he said.
Even if you don’t get the position, you’ll get a clearer idea of the areas you need to build on as well as letting your current employer know your intentions to progress your career. “A good boss will see your desire to have a different challenge and may even accommodate changes in your current responsibilities to help you progress in the direction you’d like to move in,” said Myers. “It’s highly unlikely that your wish to move across the company will be taken the wrong way, as long as you highlight that it’s because you want to develop your career, not because you don’t get along with your manager.”
Kris Duggan, CEO of enterprise software company BetterWorks, based in Silicon Valley
More common than you think. “Applying for a different job in-house does not imply you are unhappy or uninterested in your current job, especially if you are consistently performing well,” said Duggan. “Rather, it proves you are ambitious and are seeking out opportunity for growth and learning — and any good boss or manager will appreciate those qualities.”
With job-hopping the new norm among millennials, many employers should be happy that their workers are applying in-house rather than elsewhere, said Duggan. “If employees feel threatened or think they might ‘look bad’ in front of their current boss when applying for another position, they will likely interview outside of the company when they are ready to make their next career move,” he said. “If employees aren’t finding learning and growth in their current position, a different job in-house might provide personal development without putting the employee at risk of leaving.”
Dominique Jones, vice president of human resources at talent management software firm Halogen Software, based in Ottawa, Canada.
Comes down to how open manager-employee communication is. “Ideally, discussions about your career interests and goals should already be happening,” said Jones. “Part of this involves you and your manager looking at opportunities to challenge you and provide an enriching experience at your organisation. After all, your manager wants to see you develop and should be supportive of your career goals. Your organisation wants to develop its talent and create a workforce that will help achieve impactful results.”
You need to be clear about your intentions, such as an interest in learning about other areas of the business or addressing current skill gaps with real-work experience, said Jones. “Your manager can then put a plan in place to ensure you’re best prepared for any potential change in position. And, if you achieve success, it will be a direct reflection of the coaching provided to you by your manager.”
Pete Christothoulou, CEO of advertising analytics provider Marchex, based in Seattle
Only small risks for the employee. “The real risk is what happens if you aren't actively looking to promote members of your teams, because then they will undoubtedly look elsewhere for their growth opportunity,” Christothoulou said.
A smooth transition is important. “The employee should spend the time thinking through a thoughtful transition plan so as not to leave their commitments unfinished or their 'prior' team in a terrible bind,” he said. “Simple steps like this build credibility for the employee and foster collaboration."
There’s nothing wrong with going for a different position. “If it looks bad to their current boss, then they are simply working for the wrong manager,” said Christothoulou. “Managers should place high emphasis on employee development, growth and happiness.” In the case when individuals want to move for other reasons, such as not liking a manager or the current position, “those instances should also be highlighted as they point out other organisational opportunities that are ripe for improvement,” he said.