Transferring jobs within the same company can have lots of advantages. You know the company already and can do plenty of research on the team you’d be joining, and if you’re lucky, your current boss can be a great advocate for you.
But internal transfers can also be full of pitfalls—like, how exactly do you bring it up to your boss that you want to move to another department or team? Here are answers to all of your questions about how to apply for an internal transfer, how to network your way to the job, and of course, how to have that talk with your manager.
What Are Best Practices in Conducting an Internal Job Search?
Treat it as you would any other job search. Just because you’re an internal candidate doesn’t mean you get special treatment or that you’re guaranteed the role. You’ll still have to position yourself as an ideal candidate and present current and professional materials, including a resume that makes it clear why you’re a great fit.
In fact, some hiring managers have higher expectations for internal candidates, since you’ve already had exposure to the company’s goals, clients, and strategies. So in your application and in interviews, be prepared to discuss both broad company goals and more targeted department-specific goals.
Also, this may sound obvious, but before you go for it, make sure you actually want the job. You have the benefit of (most likely) knowing the hiring manager and the team with whom you’d be working. Is it a team you want to be on, or where you could be successful?
Most importantly, consider your reasons for wanting to leave your current team—are you genuinely excited by the new opportunity, are you just bored, or are you dissatisfied with your current manager? Those aren’t great reasons for initiating an internal move, so be honest with yourself about your motives.
When Should I Tell My Manager That I Want To Consider a New Job Opportunity?
It’s always a good idea to keep your current manager in the loop in a situation like this. In a perfect world, the two of you have already had conversations about your career and professional goals, so your manager won’t be surprised that you’re interested in changing jobs.
So if you have a good relationship with your manager, and you think they’ll support you, then by all means talk to them sooner rather than later—maybe even as soon as you see a job you’d like to apply for.
It’s also good to talk to your boss if you’re going to contact the hiring manager prior to applying (see below). You don’t want to blindside them and have them find out through the grapevine. And when you do speak with the hiring manager, it’s nice to be able to count on your current manager’s support.
But if you have a not-so-great relationship with your manager, then you may want to wait until you’re further along in the process. You might even be able to get away with telling them after you have an offer, depending on your company structure and what the policies are on internal transfers. But I advise telling them when you get to the finalist stage at the latest.
Okay, So How Do I Tell My Manager I Want to Make an Internal Move?
No matter what kind of relationship you have with your boss, this can be a delicate conversation. Some managers take it personally when someone wants to leave their team for another one. And once they know that you’re interested in transferring jobs, they’re likely to worry that you won’t be as committed to your current projects.
So when you break the news to your manager, frame it as a means for you to grow professionally. A good approach is to talk about what you’ve learned from them, and how they’ve helped you grow to this point. Seek their support and ask their advice. It’s also important to reiterate your commitment to your current role, and assure them that nothing will fall through the cracks.
Finally, commit to keeping them informed of the process and timeline as you work with the hiring manager, and be open to negotiating on your transition date depending on how your current projects are going and the needs of both teams.
Should I Contact the Hiring Manager Before I Apply?
Making a personal connection with the hiring manager early on is a good move, if you do it the right way. If you’re in a smaller company and already know the hiring manager, a more informal approach could work well. In fact, it might be awkward if you don’t reach out. Ask if you can meet with them, and be prepared with questions about their goals for the position and what they’re looking for in candidates.
Your approach will be a little different if your company is larger or you don’t know the hiring manager. In this situation, I wouldn’t recommend asking for a face-to-face meeting. Instead, send an email with a brief introduction, including your background, highlights of your accomplishments at the company, and why you’re interested in their open position.
Keep in mind that your company may already have a process in place for internal transfers. Some policies require the employee to speak with the hiring manager prior to applying, or mandate at what stage you have to inform your current boss. So it’s a good idea to ask your HR team about the steps you’re expected to take.
How Can I Network and Market My Skills and Interests Within My Current Company?
Ideally, you’ll have started internal networking before you apply for a job transfer. Networking helps you build a group of people who recognize your skills and are willing to champion you. And the best way to do that is to always be connecting with others throughout your company, even if you aren’t looking for a new role. That way, if you do find an open position you’re excited about, you’re ready to go.
How do you do that? Try to make yourself as visible as possible and seek opportunities to create value for others. You want to position yourself as an invaluable resource for the company, not just your current team. Some concrete ways to make connections:
- Ask for high-visibility or high-impact assignments
- Volunteer to work on cross-functional projects
- Attend networking events hosted by your company
- Participate in company-wide workshops and learning opportunities
What if you find out about an open position but you haven’t yet built the network? There’s no better time to start networking than now.
What Can I Do if My Manager Doesn’t Support My Mobility?
As much as this may sting, it’s important to look at the situation as objectively as possible. It could be that your manager doesn’t believe you’re ready to make a move. Be open to asking your manager why they don’t support you and what you’d need to do to gain their support, whether that’s developing specific expertise or working on your soft skills—then be prepared to do the work.
If you’re confident that you’re consistently exceeding expectations, then it’s time to quickly find another advocate—maybe a manager on another team with whom you work closely.
This is also why it’s so important to build your network (both internally and externally). The most successful professionals have well-rounded groups of advocates—including peers, supervisors, and direct reports from both current and prior employers. That way, no matter how things stand with your current manager, you can leverage this network to support your career goals.