A lot of people are unhappy in their jobs. In fact, 2.8 million Americans quit their jobs every month.
I’ve written extensively about how you should quit your job, and for many people, that advice is all they need. There is, however, one situation where that advice does not suffice.
Some people are at the perfect company, but in the wrong job.
Walking away from one company and into another is a tricky path to chart, but transferring within the same company can also be like navigating a minefield.
You have to create the right relationships, develop the right skills, and time your move carefully to pull it off without damaging yourself.
To help you through this process, I’ve written this guide. But before we jump into the “how” behind this, let’s get one thing straight:
There Are No Generic Answers To Your Career
The reason I created a system for figuring out what you want and getting it is because you need a fluid approach. Your path to happiness will change constantly.
What doesn’t change is the system you use to chart that path.
This is especially true when it comes to internal transfers. I transferred jobs three times at Goldman Sachs, which was possible because Goldman is fairly flexible when it comes to keeping talent.
The company you work at, on the other hand, might have an entirely different attitude.
So-called experts who say things like, “In all situations, just go up to your manager and tell them you want a transfer,” are the same people who tell everyone to start a dropshipping company that sells fake nails.
However, there is a specific process you can follow for figuring out what role you want, creating the relationships and skills required for it, and achieving the role with minimum friction.
It all starts with deciding where you want to go.
How To Decide To Change Roles In 3 Steps
Deciding to quit can be difficult, and making an internal transfer can be just as tricky.
Getting yourself to a place where you’re ready to make this leap requires a three step process:
1. Admit You Are Unhappy
The first step to deciding you need to change roles is admitting you are unhappy. The key to this is asking yourself the right questions:
- Do you spend your mornings fantasizing about not having to work?
- Does it take you an obscene amount of coffee to get going each day?
- Do you ever excitedly tell your friends about your work, or do you try not to think about it?
Those questions are a good start to understanding that you don’t want to be where you are. They don’t, however, tell you where you want to be.
2. Describe A Role That Would Make You Happy
One of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to overcome in getting what you want is your fear of uncertainty.
A lot of people think that because they can’t immediately name their dream job, they aren’t ready to make a move.
Start by describing the qualities of a role that would make you happy. The best part about this is if you followed step one, you’re already halfway there. You know what makes you unhappy, now flip those qualities.
Now you have the profile of a job that makes you happy, you just need a name for it.
3. Discover Where Your Dream Job Exists
A lot of people stumble over this step, but there’s a trick to it that makes things much easier:
Look at the qualities you want in a job, and focus on developing relevant skills. For example, if you like personal interaction, focus on developing as a communicator.
As you research and improve, you’ll develop a greater understanding of what it is about communication you excel at, which will give you a more specific sense of what role you want.
For example, maybe you love advising people. On the other hand, maybe you love debating and collaborating with people. Depending on the case, you’re looking at a different set of ideal jobs.
By focusing on the step right in front of you—developing the skills that match your dream job’s qualities—you gain a greater sense of what makes you happy, and are able to more clearly define and eventually name your dream job.
And once that dream job is named, the question presents itself: Does that job exist at your current company?
How To Transfer Roles—Without Burning Relationships
If your dream role—or a necessary intermediate role—exists at your current company, an internal transfer is probably your best move. That’s assuming you like your company, of course.
Many people find switching roles within a company more stressful than switching companies entirely, and it’s not hard to understand why:
- What if your current boss is offended?
- What if you get a reputation of being uncommitted?
- If you don’t get the transfer, how do you stay where you are now that everyone knows you want out?
It’s a lot to deal with. However, all of these anxieties rest on one faulty assumption—that the people around you don’t care if you’re happy.
Unless you work in a toxic environment, establishing an honest, compassionate relationship with your boss and colleagues from the beginning will make your transition much easier.
There are a number of ways to do this:
- Develop a mentee/mentor relationship with your boss: Obviously, don’t ask your boss for relationship advice, but come to him/her for career advice. They can be a big resource for you, and if they’re invested in your future, they’ll support your transfer.
- Develop friendships deeper than work: Talk to your coworkers about more than your numbers. Get lunch occasionally, socialize after work, and generally show personal investment in them. They will return the favor, and support you pursuing your dream.
- Perform well in your current role: This can be hard, especially if you’re unhappy, but you need to push yourself to perform in your current role. If you’re under-performing, you look like a slacker jumping ship. You need to earn respect and appreciation.
Once everything is in place, all you have to do is ask.
Sometimes Changing Roles Means Getting Promoted
This advice so far has been geared towards people looking to switch to a different part of their company. The system also works, however, for people looking to climb the ladder.
Sometimes you don’t love your current role, but you would love the one just ahead of you. By developing the right skills for the job, nurturing supportive relationships, and taking powerful actions, you can score a promotion in much the same way as a transfer.
All you need is a system for doing those three things. If you don’t have one of those yet, scroll up.
P.S. If you found this article helpful, you’ll likely also get value from this article—Pathways To Success—and these audio tracks from the System For Winning Masterclass.