Office politics for dummies
January 19, 2012 8:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I position myself for an internal job change when no job has been posted?

I've been at my job for about a year and a half. During this time, I've taken every opportunity to get experience in an area that will be a major growth area for my industry, but is a little underresourced at present. I have also told my immediate manager that I am interested in taking on more responsibilities in that area.

I work in a small division of a much larger public company. The management tends to be very hierarchical and secretive. Rank-and-file pretty much never know about changes before they happen (good or bad), and there's little cross-communication between departments.

Today I heard a rumor that management is planning to add one (or more) positions in the area I'm interested in. The new position(s) would be in a different department, under a VP who I've never spoken to, although I've worked quite a bit with several other members of the department.

I also heard that they are talking to a former employee (the previous incumbent of my job, actually) about coming back to work in this area.

No positions have been posted, internally or externally.

How do I make sure I get a decent chance at one of these positions? My boss's boss likely has some influence, or I could go to the other department's VP directly, although I don't know her. (Not helping is that I tend not to be very confident with upper-management types. They're always so difficult to catch in their offices, for one thing!)

My direct boss and I are not the closest. I get decent reviews, but I don't think I could count on her to advocate for me. I think she'd be more concerned about disruption in her department.

I know I need to come straight out and tell someone I want one of these jobs, but who do I talk to and how?

Advice, strategies, pep talks welcome.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The most direct approach is to talk to the person who will be responsible for the recruitment. There's no point speaking to anyone unless the person who chooses who gets hired knows you exist.

The polite thing to do would be to give your current boss a heads-up that you're going to approach the other department, although if you didn't think this would go down very well due to the disruption your movement might cause then I wouldn't be averse to having an "off the record" chat without having told your line manager.

Ultimately, there's nothing wrong with dropping the VP an email asking if they've got 10 mins at some point in the day. They're very unlikely to just come back and say "no". Go and see them and say "Hi xxx. I've heard there might be an opportunity opening up in yyy. Will the recruitment be opening up internally for that, as it's something that I'd be keen to persue. My line manager is aware this is an area of interest for me, and I wanted to understand from you whether my application might be considered before mentioning it further to my manager".

Good luck. The biggest mistake you could make in this scenario would be to do nothing (or leave it too late!).
posted by Simon_ at 3:41 AM on January 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with Simon_. Where I work, to make this kind of internal move, you would need to figure out a) who is the person who can make it happen, and b) who is the person who could tank it.

The first is usually the person who would be your new supervisor, but sometimes things are a bit more complicated and it's actually their boss or a coworker who is the decision-maker. Either way, if they don't actively want you for the position, it's not happening. The second can be trickier to figure out, but it's also critical. If your immediate manager is unhappy with this and says the right thing to the VP of your division, who says something to the VP of the division you are hoping to join, your candidacy is probably dead in the water, for example. So whether you talk to that person directly, or cover yourself by preemptively meeting with the VP, or something else, you need to make sure there is no way that your application will get yanked out of grouchiness.

Good luck!
posted by Forktine at 5:44 AM on January 20, 2012

In addition to talking to the VP, talk to a future teammate or two. You don't have to tell them you're gunning for a position on their team; just express some interest. Treat it as an informational interview: ask them how they got to where they are and what skills and qualifications someone would need. If possible, and if you have free time, ask to assist with some of their projects. If you work well with them and show interest and skill, they're likely to put in a good word for you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:48 AM on January 20, 2012

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