How to manage internal job hunting
January 17, 2014 4:20 AM   Subscribe

When I was hired, I was hired on the assumption that I will move to position A when it becomes available (timeline: years). I've lately been doing some work to assist another department (B). I like this work, and I'd like to explore the job and possibly transfer to it should a position become available, but am not sure as it has the potential to be high-stress. How do I best explore this?

Manager B (who is not my manager nor in my 'path') is pleased with my work, he can offer a good reference and is willing to set up conversations with people who could help me explore job B, but has no control over hiring. Manager A has recently pushed back against time spent on B. How do I explore this new option, without burning any bridges with my current manager/career path by abandoning the path they have for me and screwing up their legacy plans (but at the same time not wanting to immediately leave and clear the way for them to replace me)? Or am I overthinking it and I should just talk to my manager?
posted by platypus of the universe to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Have coffee or lunch with Manager B. Tell him your situation and get his input.
posted by Murray M at 4:43 AM on January 17, 2014

No. Don't talk to manager B. That's wrong. Talk to current manager. He's the one who is currently guiding you and has your current arc in mind. This is a good litmus test for manager A whole you MIGHT actually stay with long term and for the org in how it deals with changes in long term plans.

I repeat talking to manager b first is not a good idea. Even a perfect human being in mgr A's role would feel slightly odd at you NOT going to them first.
posted by chasles at 4:49 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

First of all, NEVER let other people plan your future. You are in control of your career, and while you may have been hired on a particular path, what if they divested that division tomorrow? Do you think that you'd still have that 'promised' future? No.

Sit down with your manager and have a discussion. Explain that you find department B interesting and that you'd like to continue to work on projects with them, perhaps with an eye to moving into that realm. See what your manager has to say about it.

This is the time to listen rather than talk. Take your cues from what is said. If your manager seems open, then awesome, now it's all above board and you have everyone's blessing.

If your manager seems territorial or obstructionary, back off and keep your eyes open. (and your back to the wall).
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:39 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

If Manager A is pushing back, it's most likely that he perceives your work as suffering because of work done for Manager B. Therefore, it's in your best interests to talk with Manager A about your career, and about what you like about the work you're doing for Manager B. Stress that you don't want this to interfere in any way with your duties to Manager A, but that you'd be very grateful to be able to do more of the work that Manager B does.

A good manager wants his/her team members to be happy and pick out a career path. Assuming your manager is a good one, he'll find a way for you to continue doing work you like, while still expecting quality work that he needs.
posted by xingcat at 6:33 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have tried this and it is tricky!

It will depend on the personality of your current manager and the manager you want to work for. If your current manager sincerely wants you to grow as a person/employee then tell them and work on a plan. But most managers are not like this; they are pretty self-concerned and just want a good employee who does his/her work well and doesn't complain too much. Therefore any attempt by you to better your situation will be a threat to their cushy life.

In your case it sounds like Manager A isn't going to be much help. You will need to, in essence, work two jobs. Make sure ALL your work for Mgr A is getting done quickly and getting done well; with the extra time or on your own hours, do work for Mgr B and apprentice that position. It sounds like Mgr B is more open to this kind of thing, so I would keep the conversation floating. Ask Mgr B how they would approach a change over if they were in your shoes - who to talk to, which jobs to apply for etc. Keep a finger in the pie and look for opportunities.

Definitely go after what you want. As long as you're polite, get your current work done etc. you are not burning any bridges. Jump ship the moment you are able. Trust me, the company doesn't have any loyalty to you. You're just a cog in the machine as far as they're concerned.

Finally BE CAREFUL WHO YOU TELL. I tried to make a total career change within my company, had apprenticed and done lots of extra work, but there just wasn't a position for me. Then people started seeing me as straddling two horses; as a result I wasn't promoted in my current position because "everyone knows" that I wanted to switch out anyway. It totally hindered my current position's growth. And in the end I was unsuccessful in making the switch even though I took courses etc (since they just weren't able to see me in the new role, I was so heavily viewed as being a technical person). Again it really depended on the people who were in the positions, not the positions themselves. The director of the dept that I wanted to get into was kind of back-stabby and territorial and just wouldn't let me switch, no matter how hard I was trying to work it, and he also had some input via HR into my current position and kept me stunted there as well for lord only knows what reason. He's gone now and the person there is way too professional to pull that kind of garbage, they know that people swap roles all the time and in fact it is healthy for everyone. It totally depends on who is in the position of power. So pay close attention to the tides. If there's courses you can take in the mean time, do it. Jump in the moment there's an entry.

Worst case scenario - get all the experience you can and then try to get hired in position B elsewheres.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:46 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Few updates: I have a good relationship with current manager (A).

The push back was in the form of requesting that work requests from manager B go through manager A and not just Manager B asking me directly for help. I think it was to keep me from being overloaded, but that curbed my original plan of just subtly taking in more of B work for experience until a position opened. I have the time, my own work isn't suffering.

My concern with A is how to present the proposal of "I want to work to leave, but for now I'm staying so you can't hire anyone to replace me yet, so this is wasted time with respect to legacy planning."
posted by platypus of the universe at 9:59 AM on January 17, 2014

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