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There are internal job postings up again, and I'm not sure how aggressive I should be.

I'm a good performer at my job, and I believe in a meritocracy. When internal job postings go up, I always submit a short note with my resume outlining my achievements (which should be enough to get these jobs) but it seems I get passed up and completely ignored.

I had the opinion that I should be able to perform well, submit my resume, and get where I want, without having to resort to other tactics (using "connections" and the like). Am I completely delusional?

What else should I try when going the straight way isn't working?

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Who do end up getting these jobs? Are they more qualified? Are the internal candidates or external candidates? Did you think to ask the hiring managers why you were not selected and what you could do to improve your chances next time? –  Oded Nov 6 '12 at 20:24
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Have you talked with your manager about your interest in these positions? Your manager could be your best advocate if you work with them. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Nov 6 '12 at 22:01
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4 Answers 4

... I believe in a meritocracy

As much as we all want to believe that, it's simply not true. Or at least not in the sense you are implying. Things like personal chemistry, trust, familiarity and team compatibility are equally or more important than your recorded achievements and history.

Given the choice between two candidates that are close to equal on paper, the choice will almost always fall on the one the person hiring either has a positive personal relationship or direct experience working with, or that comes with a recommendation or endorsement from someone else they know. That's just the way humans work. To get ahead, you need allies and people who can support and vouch for you.

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I had the opinion that I should be able to perform well, submit my resume, and get where I want, without having to resort to other tactics (using "connections" and the like). Am I completely delusional?

At the very least, you should probably mention to your boss that you're looking to switch; if another manager comes to him and blindsides him with "hey, bobobobo put in a request to switch to my team, what can you tell me about him?" he's not necessarily going to be happy that he's hearing about it secondhand, and he's not going to be as prepared to answer as he could be.

Usually in this situation, I would probably sit down with my boss and say "I noticed there's an internal posting for < X >. I think that'd be a good move for me; do you agree? Is there anything I can do to improve my chances for getting the position? If I were to switch, is there anything I would absolutely need to wrap up before I transferred?"

My thought is that most of these requests are going to gate through him first, so you want him in your corner. At the very least, you want to make sure that he's not preventing you from moving.

(There's an "Ask A Manager" post from a while back where the manager flat-out refused to let an employee switch; when pressure was put on them, they said "fine, they can switch, but not for 3-4 months". Eventually the employee had to threaten to quit and apply as an outsider before higher-ups stepped in and forged a compromise. I'll try to find the link.)

EDIT: Link to original story and link to end-of-year update.

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Two questions: What is your relationship with your current direct manager? Do you blindside him with your need to cross to another department?

In my experience, raw skill won't get you the gig. You're in a (large) gathering of other human beings, so rest assured, there are other things being put into consideration during internal hiring process. This is the way things work. Bosses have favourites. People they're more comfortable working with. More aggression on your part chasing the new seat might just lead to hair greying.

Be aware of the political climate of your organization to avoid undue frustration in your pursuit. If you're being repeatedly passed over for roles that you're confident you're ahead of the competition, you're either not as qualified as you believe you are OR you need to keep your manager better informed/seek his feedback after a failed attempt. He might have access to information you don't.

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What else should I try when going the straight way isn't working?

Networking is talked about all the time because it is far more effective than randomly sending out resumes. You have a misconception about what is the most normal or standard way to get jobs, which isn't throwing a resume out and hoping to get hired.

You should try the better way - network. Start with your boss. Ask him about what sorts of career advancement options he/she recommends. Then the people you are currently blindly throwing resumes to. Ask them about the job opening, ask them if they have a chance to talk about what responsibilities it would entail.

Sending a resume and note shows 2 minutes of interest to the manager. Having coffee or a conversation with them shows considerable more.

Also consider you have a completely wrong impression about what the "straight" way is.

I had the opinion that I should be able to perform well, submit my resume, and get where I want, without having to resort to other tactics (using "connections" and the like). Am I completely delusional?

Not delusional, but definitely viewing an idealistic sense of the world which doesn't exist.

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