How to change careers within your company

If you work for a medium to large size organisation, one of the ways that you could make your career change is through your employer. Just think of the range of jobs that your collegues do! Getting your employer to help you change careers within the company can have numerous advantages. These include:

  • less risk than having to take a step into the unknown 
  • more likely to maintain your earnings
  • more likely to have a say in your career change if they know your track record
  • your current employer may be more supportive and this support could extend to the provision of training or payment for course fees, for example
  • if your career change doesn’t work out, your employer may be able to provide you with a return to your previous job

However, there may not always be a position open for you, so there are a few things to think about before you go to your line manager and start the career change process. These include:

  • profiling your company - is your company able to accommodate your career change?
  • assessing your value - would you be the right person for the career change?
  • making your pitch - how do you make your case?
  • monitoring your progress
  • contingency plans - what happens if the career change doesn't work out in the way you hoped?

We'll look through these in more detail.

Profiling your company

Structure

It's not always possible to get into the career you want if companies don't have the ability to accommodate you. For example if you looking to get into marketing do they have a marketing department?

Culture

Does your organisation have a history of looking after its staff and their ambitions and does it have examples of people making similar moves in the past? 

Performance

Is your company currently investing in people, either internally or outside the organisation and does it have plans to grow and develop? If it is in the midst of letting go of people and tightening its belt, you're unlikely to have your request granted. 

Personalities

Do the people around you, especially your line manager and those more senior than you, believe in you and your ability?

Profiling your company involves forming an objective view of their capability of delivering the opportunity you are seeking. You can see what needs they have and use it to your advantage -  if your organisation values you they might be persuaded to create something for you that didn’t previously exist.

Assessing your leverage

What skills and knowledge do you have that mean that your employer places a high value on you? You need to be able to display your value to your company as someone they want to retain in the organisation otherwise they will employ someone else for the job. You value could come from a number of factors including your: 

  • Job performance & track record - if you are a consistently high performer they are going to want to keep you. 
  • Organisation know-how - if you know a lot about how your organisation and the industry operates you might be seen as useful to competitor.
  • Key member - if your team relies on your skills, knowledge and personality, they may find that you will be greatly missed and hard to replace.
  • Scarce skills - you may have specific skills or knowledge that only you understand and therefore you'd be hard to replace.  

If you assess your value to an employer and don't think it's up to scratch, you might first have to think about creating a plan where you can acquire this value, and go to your employer in, for example, six months' time. 

Making your Pitch

Once you're at a point where you've decided that your employer is capable of providing you with the opportunity you are seeking and that they value you enough to want to keep you, you can go to some one within your organisation to ask about your career change. 

It's likely that you'll want to approach your immediate boss or line manager - they'll know you better and hopefully you'll have a rapport with them, and you'll want to get them on your side. Some of the advantages of speaking to your direct senior include:

  • they are in a better position to make internal job moves happen and pull strings
  • they understand your value within the organisation
  • they probably have more experience than you and can therefore give you advice including issues you haven’t considered before

What should you say? 

  • Be positive - make a point of saying what you’ve gained from your experience with the company so far, how much enjoyed working with colleagues and skills you’ve acquired.
  • As to your ideas on where you see your career going next, put these in the context of wishing to remain within the organisation and wishing move internally.
  • Don’t say you are bored or dislike you current position.
  • Don’t make threats and say that if they don't give you what you want you are going to leave. (However in asking to move you are silently saying that if you don't get what you are looking for then they risk losing you). 
  • Maintain credibility - your line manager has got to believe you are serious about what you are saying.
  • Trial it - you could suggest that rather than going in the deep end you could trial a new position. If this doesn't work out, you would be prepared to move back into your old role. This will give your company and boss some assurance that they will be able to get the best out of you regardless. 

Monitoring your progress

When asking for an internal career move, it's not going to happen overnight, however what your line manager could do to get the ball rolling might include:

  • putting out feelers for you and speak to right people
  • at the appropriate moment they could say right thing about you
  • making your ambitions known to higher management
  • coming to your rescue if your career change doesn't work out the way you'd hoped

However, what happens if you speak to your line manager and nothing changes? What happens if your request is never mentioned again? 

Give your employer a time limit

A career change doesn't happen overnight however it shouldn’t take too long without anything to show because this might mean one of two things:

  1. You aren't valued by your employer as you had hoped.
  2. The opportunities you’re looking for come up only occasionally so what you are seeking isn’t realisable. 

If this is the case, you might want to think about how you can find employment outside your current company and look around to see what is available. 

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