Poach me! Poach me!
July 23, 2016 1:16 AM   Subscribe

I work at a big company, in Department X. The company hired a new C-level executive to form Department Y six months ago, and he has said very nice things about my work publicly, on several occasions. Department Y could totally use someone like me -- and this guy has won my (professional) heart. How do I maximize my chances of being poached?

C-guy complimented me publicly and more than once on a newsletter I put together, and asked my help with the design and content of a website the company wants to make. The boss-of-my-boss said I couldn't do it, that Dept X needed me doing Dept-X-type work. That was earlier this week. Immediately after, C-guy went out of town, and gets back next week.

I really want to work on that project. And my set of skills, I think, is exactly what Dept Y needs and doesn't have. C-guy, as I saw from two meetings with him, is a real visionary, an inspiring leader -- maybe he's hell to work for, I have no idea -- but I *do* want to work for him.

On the other hand, the-boss-of-my-boss is aces (though my actual boss is kind of a thorn in my side) and I have a pretty sweet gig in Dept X. It's not perfect -- the aforementioned actual boss sucks, they won't promote me though I've had the same title four years, and have told me they are taking away from me some tasks I really like doing -- but still pretty sweet. If I didn't get into Dept Y, but burned bridges in Dept X -- that would definitely be undesirable.

Part of me says, "If C-guy wanted me, he'd just take me -- he probably has enough power to do that."
But another part says, "The self-promoter is who wins at this game. C-guy doesn't know what all I could do for him. And maybe it would matter to him that I *am* such a fan, and really dig his vision."
And the first part says, "I don't even know if Dept Y has headcount. The-boss-of-my-boss would probably be pissed, and take steps to replace me, if he thought I was trying to leave, and then I'd have lost what is really a pretty good job. Unemployment. Homelessness. The end of the world."
And the second part says, "I got a stellar performance review last year, but this year it's in the hands of sucky-actual-boss who hates me, so now is the time to make a move. Polish up my resume, get [pH].com into shape this weekend, and ask C-guy's admin for 15 minutes next week. "
And the first part says, "AskMetafilter is wise. Seek its counsel."

So here I am. What do I do?
If I approach C-guy, how do I do that? What do I say?
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Two things in my experience which may be relevant and/or helpful
1) I've had bosses who have explicitly said that although they'd rather they kept me in their team, if I'm unhappy or ready for a change then talk to them as they'd rather help me find another opportunity in the bigger department/company/global operation than see me walk off to a competitor. I got my current job - which was pretty much created for me - via the machinations of three senior managers after I mentioned semi-casually to one that I felt under-utilised and that I was stagnating, maybe it was time for a change. It sounds like your boss' manager is a good person to raise this point with ("I'm interested in looking for a change - don't suppose you know of anyone who would value my skills? Dept Y looks interesting...")
2) You're in a big company, and they do performance reviews - so it's likely that they also keep an eye on strong performers with talent and potential. My current employer does the same, but fully expects such people to be proactive - if a vacancy comes up and someone in this 'has potential' box doesn't at the very least talk to the recruiting manager then it can act as a mark against them (unless there are mitigating reasons). Being proactive to talk to other managers to indicate an interest and a drive to develop your skills and career shouldn't be viewed as a negative - and at the very least, as long as you couch it in appropriate terminology (proactive career development, broadening your network, applying your skills in a different area, etc.) then you'll be on the radar when and if something comes up.
posted by Chunder at 2:57 AM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some companies are OK with people moving around, some have politics going on. Which is yours?
I've worked at a place that didn't have an apparent policy. I got poached and moved to a hot team. I stayed there for 3 years and looked around and saw another team was looking. I approached them and I had to go through a formal process this time - an actual internal hire complete with interview.

The thing for you to do is to test the water and be proactive about it.
Ask the Y manager for a lunch and come in with a bunch of questions about their project, current milestones, and future roadmap as well as how they are progressing on same. It'd also be helpful to know the revenue model they're intending to use. So not only why is this a cool product, but how is it going to make money.

In addition to now knowing the project status as well as its future goals and projections, you've just communicated an intense curiosity about it and if in asking about it you successfully identified the project pain points and limitations, you should have sent a clear signal. And you also know a lot more about the project and what its issues are/will be.

If the manager then asks you what your interest is, you can broach it. "Oh, I really like what I'm working on, but I've heard about your project and I thought it would be in my best interest to scout it out. Why - do guys need bodies?"

If the manager doesn't bite, wait a couple days then follow up.
And in any preliminary discussions that follow, make sure that you stress that "I don't want to burn bridges and perhaps the idea of moving was not mine buy yours?"
posted by plinth at 3:49 AM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Geeze, I realise that it feels like there is a lot at stake here but the best thing to do is to pull C Guy aside and say, using actual words, "Is there any chance you might want to poach me for Department Y?" You don't want to create problems for yourself with emails etc but if you don't ask, you don't get.

(Also, a gig with no promotions and no raises is not sweet unless they are paying you to collect Pokemon. Seriously. The person in charge of advocating for you is you; please do a better job.)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:24 AM on July 23, 2016 [6 favorites]

As plinth and DarlingBri have said, you should express interest in a casual way (i.e., not by submitting a resume, but in a conversation) to C-guy. If he knows you're happy to be poached, it's a lot more likely that he would try to do it. I'd suggest different wording than DarlingBri -- something more like, "The projects you're working on sound really interesting and in line with my skills. If you have any openings, I'd be excited to work on your team."
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:52 AM on July 23, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you so much for your responses!

The current job is pretty good -- I have gotten raises every year, one significant, but no promotion. Dept Z tried to poach me last year, I didn't want to go, and my management fought them off for me -- which was politically hard to do, and I appreciated it a lot.

You're telling me it is a "nothing ventured, nothing gained" situation. I need to talk to C-guy. So OK -- how?

The consensus seems to be that I bring it up casually, but I do not have any opportunities for casual interaction with him. His office is way the hell at the other end of the building, where I never have reason to go, and I am not in any regular meetings he attends.

So I...
  • Cruise by his office multiple times hoping to find him there? His admin will think I'm a stalker.
  • Ask his admin for 15 minutes with him? There goes "casual".
  • Email him directly, expressing interest? Paper trail, forwarded easily to my management maybe.
  • Mention my interest to someone else on the project team? Possible -- I'm kind of friendly with someone on it. But cowardly?
  • Email him something to do with the project, some suggestion or something, expressing that I am sorry I can't help more? Gets me "top-of-mind", but also could seem critical of my management, also forwarded easily.
You see it seems like a very knotty problem to me -- but you have to understand that I am 46 and a [my title]-one. I'm not good at this.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 12:41 PM on July 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, ask for 15 minutes, then go in and say that you are sorry that you could not help with his project. You hope he will keep you in mind for anything in Department Y. While your current job does not seem to allow you to do this particular work for him, you respect the work he is planning to do in Department Y. If it were up to you, you would have done this work.

Then ask him to please keep you updated on developments with Department Y, because you are very interested in Department Y.

You do not need to be "casual" and in fact, this should seem serious. You want to indicate a serious interest in his department, so he knows that you would leave if he asked.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:59 PM on July 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

(A boss who would fire a good employee because they MIGHT want to transfer to another department in the same company is not actually a good boss.)
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:00 PM on July 23, 2016

He's only been there six months, so I like the lower-stakes lunch idea.
(During lunch, you would express your interest in the Dept. Y doings, and resist any urges to talk about sucky-actual-boss-who-hates you.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:34 PM on July 23, 2016

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