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I am a contract IT worker for a large American corporation. I show up to their headquarters (almost) every day and bill this company (which I'll refer to from now on as the "client") for 8 hours. I am a W2 contractor, not a C2C contractor, so I technically work for the staffing firm (which I'll now refer to as the "firm") that placed me with the client.

Despite the fact that, on paper, I work for the firm, I have very little interaction with them. They call me every couple of months and check on me. This is fine with me - they've been responsive when I've needed them.

My boss works for the client, not the firm. Most of my coworkers are full-time employees of the client, but there are also a lot of contractors who work for my firm and for other staffing firms. My contract with the client is a yearlong rolling contract, and it's been renewing in January every year. I don't get a performance review, but I do get an annual raise.

Here is the issue I'm facing: My performance has been outstanding, but I am no longer happy with my current position and I am looking for another job. As part of my job hunt, I'd be happy staying with the firm, and I'd be happy to stay with the client. Working for the client has its advantages; the issue is with my current position on my current team. The client has many job openings on many different teams that I would eagerly apply to. Unfortunately, my contract does not allow me to solicit the client directly for work.

I am tempted to reach out to my contacts at the firm and ask them what it would take for me to be placed on a different project with the same client. However, I am unsure if this is a good idea.

The general rule of thumb is that you should never tell your employer that you're looking for another job - and the staffing firm is technically my employer. I'm wondering if this rule applies in my situation. After all, the firm would then have to repeat what I said to the client.

My hunch is that the firm would realize I'm going to leave the team anyway, and do what they can to retain me, either by placing me with a different client of theirs, or possibly, by finding a different job with the same client. Does that sound like a fair guess?

As far as finding a different job with the same client, I have a related question. Would it be possible or advisable to do this without my current boss knowing I'm looking? Despite the company's large size, word that I'm interviewing with another team could easily make its way to my boss. So perhaps this is another exception to the rule of thumb that you should never tell your boss you're looking for another job.

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This could go a few different ways. The best case scenario is you tell them you'd be interested in transferring to a different position, they set up the interview, it goes well, and you end up in a much happier place. Worst case scenario--they begin to consider you a flight risk and start looking for excuses to get rid of you. I can't say for sure which of these options is more likely, but it's important to keep in mind that the client is their client and you are their employee. Your stellar performance notwithstanding, their primary fiduciary interest lies in keeping the client satisfied and they will most likely put their needs before your's.

If I were in your shoes, I probably wouldn't start the conversation with "I'm looking for a new job." Instead, start by asking them what future prospects (if any) might be available within the company, given your excellent performance over the years. If they say something like "Well, the client really needs you where you are," you can start looking for a job elsewhere. On the other hand, if they seem receptive to your desire to move on, you can inquire further about the available positions.

One way or another, you'll find a way to move on to a better place, but it might be better to tread lightly to minimize any potential fallout.

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    +1 Though I think a conversation about "future prospects" might be too vague and miss the question you're really trying to get at. I think it would be better to approach from the angle of "There's this other team at the client that really interests me." Saying you're happy where you are, but you would like to expand your skillset in that direction if possible. – David K Jun 8 '18 at 12:43

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