Switching Careers With Your Current Employer

For career changers, its often expected that you’ll have to switch employers. But, according to Career Coach Andrea Towe, a change is closer than you may think – even at your current employer.

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This article on switching careers with your current employer is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.  

Changing careers? 

If you’re currently employed, then your new role may be closer than you think. 

Before you start looking for a new job outside of your current employer, it’s worth checking on any potential opportunities within your company. Employers like to hire from within and often afford current employees consideration before opening an opportunity up to external candidates. Many companies even have programs that facilitate internal transfers or job shadowing opportunities.

If this sounds like you, below are some helpful tips on how to navigate the process. 

Step 1: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

To begin, are there benefits of staying with your current employer?

Assuming you enjoy where you work and have decided you want to remain an employee, there are perks to staying. They may include developing and maintaining strong, long-term work relationships, company benefits such as pensions (if offered), earned bonuses, annual merit increases, vacation/PTO benefits, tuition reimbursement, and professional development opportunities, just to name a few.

People often focus solely on monetary benefits, such as base salary, merit increases, and bonuses. However, tuition reimbursement for schooling or other professional development can enhance your long-term career options and marketability. Not all employers have the budget to allow for tuition reimbursement or professional development programs, so if your current company offers one, that certainly is a consideration when deciding whether or not to stay or go.

Some companies also partner with schools to upskill their employees, so check to see if that is part of any professional development programs where you work. For example, Flatiron School has partnered with several Fortune 100 companies to upskill and reskill employees looking to change career paths internally or otherwise.

Additionally, if your company promotes from within, staying may increase long-term promotion opportunities. If you switch roles within the company, then you’ll also gain additional skills and deeper company knowledge, making you an even more valuable asset for them to retain. Plus, you’re already familiar with the company culture and strategic vision and can help contribute to that in your new role.

Finally, don’t forget about work-life balance. If you’re lucky enough that your current employer values and promotes a healthy work-life balance, then that is a definite perk and something to consider before looking externally. As the old saying goes, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence!

Step 2 – Research Company Policy

Once you’ve decided to pursue a career change within your current employer, it’s time to perform some research. 

Be proactive and see what resources are available to support you during your transitionCheck if your company has a policy or guidelines for pursuing a new role or internal transfer. Some companies have specific policies that address promotions, internal job transfers, and other job changes, so reviewing that information is a good place to start. If not immediately available, contact HR to inquire about your company’s policy.

Step 3 – Engage With Others

Once you’ve settled on staying and fully brushed up on your company’s policy, it’s time to get the word out that you’re pursuing an internal career change.

Talk To Your Manager

The thought of talking with your manager about your interest in switching roles and potentially leaving the department can feel daunting; however, any good manager wants what is best for their employee and to help them grow and succeed. 

Most companies conduct performance reviews with their employees on a regular basis, and those discussions often include professional career development goals. This is a great format to broach the topic of a career/job change. Your manager can even help facilitate some of the processes by identifying employees within the company with whom you can network and conduct informational interviews, or vouch for your performance to your destination department. 

Network, Network, Network

As with any job search, one of, if not THE most important component, is networking! Take advantage of your existing connections in your workplace, and take the opportunity to create new ones who may be able to support your goals.

See if there are employees in roles that match your new career interests. For example, if you’re switching from a finance role to a tech role, then check to see who is currently in a tech role – whether it’s a help desk-related role, web developer, data scientist, etc.  

Networking with your colleagues will help you better learn about other positions within your company and build important relationships that can ultimately help you transition to a new role. Reaching out to others will also demonstrate that you have the initiative to pursue your goals and interests, which is a quality that hiring managers value. 

Utilize Human Resources

If you’re not sure where to start looking within your company for employees to network with – or if you’re just not comfortable talking with your manager about a potential move – then another option is to reach out to someone in the Human Resources or People department. 

They can assist you in finding employees with whom you can connect and may even be able to help identify and pursue job shadowing opportunities, developmental roles, and job rotations. 

Step 4 – Keep Your Options Open

As With Any Job Search, Patience is Key

There often are options when seeking internal opportunities. Some may be immediate and some may take more time. 

It may be that there are no job opportunities available when you’re ready to initiate a change. While it’s easier said than done, don’t let that demotivate you! This underscores why networking is so important in any job search. 

Once a job does open up that you’re interested in, not only can you apply for it, but you’ll already have built some connections and professional relationships with some of the “key players” who could put a good word in for you for the position.

Consider Internal Short-Term Opportunities

Even if there are no full-time jobs that interest you, check with HR or your manager about facilitating a job shadow in your department of interest. There may be short-term developmental opportunities in a role you’re interested in, or even a job “swap” or rotation. These types of temporary assignments are particularly helpful because it allows you to test the waters and see if you’d like to work in that type of role in the department permanently. 

Watch For Posted Vacancies

If your company has a job board, check it regularly to see what opportunities are posted. If you see a job you want to apply for, go for it! You will probably be asked to submit a resume and perhaps even a cover letter through the company’s internal application system, so brush off your resume and make sure it’s up to date. 

Remember to tailor it for the role on which you’re applying based on the details of the job posting so it highlights and demonstrates how your skills and experience make you an excellent fit for the role. 

Step 5 – Ace The Interview

Applications for Internal job opportunities usually will still include a traditional job interview. Even though you’re already an employee of the company and perhaps already have a professional relationship with the person interviewing you, you must approach the interview like any other. 

Review the job posting before the interview so you understand the role’s key responsibilities. You can then practice answering common interview questions and articulate your relevant and transferable skills and how you can add value to the role long-term. Be prepared to communicate why you are switching roles and careers and why you prefer to stay with the company. Finally, don’t forget to send a thank you note/email to the interviewer.

If you ultimately land a new job within your company, congratulations! Work with your current and new manager about a transition plan and start date. Of course, you want to leave your current department on a positive note and help tie up any loose ends before you transition out of the department. You never know who you might be working with or for again in the future!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, many job seekers, particularly career changers, often assume they need to look for work externally and overlook potential opportunities with their current employer. 

If you’re a career changer and prefer to remain at your present company, at least for the time being, then you may not have to look very far for new job opportunities. 

Be proactive and start thinking now about your next steps based on the tips outlined above, and you may be well on your way to uncovering new and exciting opportunities in your own “backyard”. 

About Andrea Towe

Andrea Towe is a Career Coach with Flatiron School. She has 20+ years of experience in career coaching and corporate human resources, including employee relations, talent acquisition, career and leadership development, training development, and facilitation.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog is current as of March 6, 2023. Current policies, offerings, procedures, and programs may differ.

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