How To Make A Functional Job Switch Inside Your Company


If you’ve been in your current role for a while and are feeling unsatisfied, it may be time to consider a move. But before you start scanning online job sites, you may first want to check out the opportunities that may exist right inside of your current company.

In fact, if you’ve been a good performer and work in a sizable organization, moving to a new role internally may be your most effective option, especially if you are looking to learn a new set of skills.

A functional switch is one of the more challenging career changes to make. Examples are moving from marketing to human resources or from recruiting to project management. While you likely have many transferable skills to offer, a hiring manager will still view you as a risk since you have few tangible results to show performing this new function…yet.

So, one of the best ways to make a functional switch is internally within your company since you have a few advantages here over moving to external organizations:

  • You know and can operate effectively within the company structure, policies and culture.
  • Your good performance and past achievements have been noticed and documented.
  • You are a “known” candidate and colleagues in the organization can vouch for you.
  • You may save the company some resources. Employers spend a lot of money to hire externally – advertising roles, reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates.
  • The company gets to retain a high performer, including all of your institutional knowledge. Bonus: you’ll be around to help your replacement get up to speed.

If you think an internal move may be for you, it’s important to approach the transition in a diplomatic and professional manner following these steps:

  1. Understand your value. Learn as much as you can about the target department, function and team so that you can assess how your skills will help solve their problems. Even if you have a great track record at the company, you will need a strong case to present to the new hiring manager. Begin to evaluate your skills in light of what you will contribute to the new team.
  2. Timing is key. If you’re on the verge of a huge project or if your team has just lost two members, this isn’t the best time to make a switch. Even if your department is in constant motion or perpetually putting out fires, it’s usually best to plant the seed with your manager first, and then make a longer-term plan for when a transition may be least disruptive for colleagues or clients. This will also help to ensure your proposal doesn’t sound like a threat (e.g., if I don’t get this I plan to leave), and instead feels like a win-win.
  3. Know the culture. Some organizations are known for promoting from within and encouraging internal moves every few years, while others tend to pigeon-hole employees. Knowing where your company is on this continuum can help you plan a strategy. Also, even if your company is very supportive of internal moves, that doesn’t mean your direct manager will be. Test the waters in your annual review or regular meetings by sharing your interest in building new skills and learning more about how your target department functions. Many employees already know how supportive (or not) their managers will be, but sometimes you may be surprised.
  4. Involve your manager (if you can). You’ll most certainly burn a bridge if you blindside your manager after getting an offer with another department. Also, in some organizations, hiring managers won’t even consider you if you haven’t first gotten permission from your current boss to pursue other internal roles. You ideally want your manager to partner with you, but if that’s not possible (see #3), set up a meeting with Human Resources to see what career paths might be available and the most diplomatic way to pursue these roles.
  5. Be prepared. Once the topic of making a functional switch is on the table, several outcomes may result that range from seamlessly making your transition to being labeled a “short-timer.” While both extremes are unlikely, tipping your hand does run the risk of signaling that you’re not satisfied in your role, which is likely a correct assumption. This isn’t a reason not to pursue a change – many companies wish their employees were more forthcoming about their career goals before jumping ship. The conversation can inspire many middle-ground solutions such as altering your current job to make it more engaging or discovering alternate roles you hadn’t even considered. Keep an open-mind. There are many paths to a more satisfying career.

A new job search can be time-intensive and frustrating. Why not check out the career paths available to you internally first? You may be surprised by what is accessible once you ask.

Happy hunting!

I started my corporate career as a recruiter, and over the past two decades have been helping job seekers attain great roles from the “other side of the desk” as a career coach. A Licensed Psychologist and Career Director for the Wharton MBA Program for Executives, I coach s…


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