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 sizeable 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 business development 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 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.
  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 best to plant the seed with your manager and then make a longer-term plan for when a transition may be least disruptive for colleagues or clients.
  3. Know the culture. Some organizations are very supportive of internal moves, but 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 team. You 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 (there are always a few hiccups), tipping your hand may signal that you’re planning to leave the team in the coming months, which is likely a correct assumption. Of course, they may also offer to alter your current job to make it more interesting or suggest an alternate role you hadn’t even considered. It’s impossible to know until you have the conversation, so 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!

Taken from Switchers by Dawn Graham Copyright © 2018 by Dawn Graham. Used by permission of HarperCollins Leadership. www.harpercollinsleadership.com.


  • Dr. Dawn Graham is the Career Director for The MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania, and author of the new book “Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success” (HarperCollins Leadership/AMACOM 2018), which engages her background as a career expert, licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter to provide a roadmap for career switchers to get beyond the hiring bias and land the job they want. Dr. Graham also hosts a national call-in radio show on SiriusXM (Channel 132) “Career Talk,” writes regularly for Forbes.com under their leadership channel, and teaches Persuasive Communication to Wharton undergrads under the Management Department.