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I am in this situation: I am doing this job in a company that has no progress path as it's become evident for me, so, I would like to start looking for other jobs that suit my qualifications better inside the company. The problem is, other jobs are in machine learning and although I have extensive experience in statistical analysis and mathematical modeling (I have a PhD in a highly quantitative field), I don't have experience in machine learning per se (I know the theory though by self-studying), and this has proven very difficult for me to get into the field of ML over the recent years. Now of course if I decided to go forward, I would tell my current manager, because I don't want him to find out from the HR, and that I went behind his back. The issue is: I am afraid that if my manager knows I am interested in other positions, he won't renew my contract (yes, I am working on contract-basis), and I as I said, I struggled to find a job before where I live, and I don't want to be in that situation again. How can I best approach this: wanting to progress, but not risking my current job?

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I have worked in a few different companies, big and small. Understanding that telling your current manager is probably going to have to happen, I would suggest first doing some detective work about the position you want. Do you know anyone who currently works in that department? Do you know anyone in HR that can tell you more about the qualifications for the position?

I find that knowing whether or not you can at least be considered is important. If you find out, for example, a specific degree is required or some other qualification like minimum years of experience which you do not have, then you will know and it will keep you from opening up a dialogue with your manager that goes nowhere anyway.

Last year I did this very thing. I, however, had a VERY contentious relationship with my manager. So much so that he was written up for how I was treated at one point. Unfortunately it is a small company and he is at the highest level of management so upsetting him was sure to destroy my career. When an opportunity in another department came up that was perfect for me, I reached out to the HR manager and she put me in touch with the person hiring for the position. We had a conversation that was very productive, and she actually told my manager she was interested in bringing me over. We were able to work that out, since she knew there was contention.

It is imperative that you look like you are following proper channels and are able to work with anyone.

In the corporate word, big or small, there are politics. Others suggest skirting your manager and hiding this, and to the person hiring you will appear more favorable if you're at least appearing willing to follow the proper channels and chain of command. That way, if you were to move on from the ML position in the future, the hiring manager will know you will communicate your desire to grow and exit properly.

I always try to follow these steps at work:

1. Research the job I was going to, to make sure I was qualified and interested in it

2. Follow the appropriate chain of command for your company, as it is different everywhere. HR should be able to help you navigate this

3. Have an open conversation with my current manager, expressing how much I enjoy my job, how I think growth in a new area would be good for my career, and attempt to get their support

By doing this you maintain your integrity with all parties, and if your current manager then recommends you internally, that will be a huge help. You can also say that you want to stay in your role if it doesn't work out, and in this case that should be the most likely way to ensure you don't lose the contract.

After seeing some other comments, I cannot stress enough that it almost always happens that when someone is overtly sneaky and purposely undermining their current boss, the new boss notices this behavior and is put off by it, the old boss is upset by it, and it does not end well for you.

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    Thank you for your answer. I was thinking the same in fact. The position requires PhD in a quantitative field with some machine learning experience, but it's entry-level position, and would like to understand how stringent the requirements are, because I can get started with my background, although I don't have a proven ML experience. I am doing a contract low-skill job, and we are easily replaceable and we are not valuable, at least the way I see it, so it's conceivable that my current manager would decide not to renew my contract if I brought this up with him.
    – BlackMath
    Jul 1, 2020 at 23:15
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    Yeah it’s possible. But if he’s liked your work so far he may help you. Either way maybe time for a change. Good luck!
    – JenInCode
    Jul 2, 2020 at 0:55
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if I decided to go forward, I would tell my current manager, because I don't want him to find out from the HR, and that I went behind his back

You will do no such thing. First you find a job, then you tell your boss about your plans to move on, not the other way around. The only time this is an exception when you have strong enough relationship with the boss to be confident that it won't turn sour. But alas you don't have that as you add:

I am afraid that if my manager knows I am interested in other positions, he won't renew my contract (yes, I am working on contract-basis), and I as I said, I struggled to find a job before where I live, and I don't want to be in that situation again

Which points to everything but a high level trust situation.

How can I best approach this: wanting to progress, but not risking my current job?

Simple, do whatever you need to do around the work hours and keep your trap shut about it. The time for your boss to find out that you are moving on is when you have a new job secured, and not a minute before.

It may sound heartless, but that's how business works. If your boss wanted to replace you, you wouldn't find out about it until he has a contingency plan all figured out and ready to act, otherwise he would screw up the balance of power and likely suffer as a result.

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    Thank you for your answer. I totally agree with you, but as I mentioned the positions are inside the company, and I would like to get in touch with the hiring manager of these positions to understand the requirements and how my background can fit, as I am a current employee in the company, and this is theoretically possible through the recruiter, whom I know, and she knows me. At least that's what I was hoping for. Of course, if I was looking for a job outside the company, I wouldn't tell my manager about it.
    – BlackMath
    Jul 1, 2020 at 12:57
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    @BlackMath Treat it exactly the same way, especially with how fragile your current position is (both for lack of protections against not extending the contract and troubles finding a new job). You could possibly gather the needed details through external means, or in casual conversation with the hope-to-be-manager if manouvered well, but I'd instead try to find old job adverts or whatever else, do anything to minimize the exposure.
    – Aida Paul
    Jul 1, 2020 at 13:01
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Now of course if I decided to go forward, I would tell my current manager, because I don't want him to find out from the HR, and that I went behind his back.

The first question is why do you need to tell HR or your manager? Is there some sort of limitation or otherwise stated in your contract?

I think the steps are as follow:

  1. Figure out what sort of notice period you need to give since you are a contract worker and not an at-will worker (assuming you're USA but regardless contract laws are similar across countries)
  2. Find a job
  3. Inform your new work place on your notice based on your contract so you can give proper notice to your current company and have a solid starting date.
  4. If, and only if, you have a written and signed offer, then turn in your noticed according to #1.
  5. Enjoy your new job
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    Thanks. To answer your question: because the jobs are internal, and the HR are receiving the resumes (or what I was thinking is to be connected through the recruiter to the hiring manager of the positions I am interested in), and thus they probably would tell my current manager if I moved forward.
    – BlackMath
    Jul 1, 2020 at 15:13

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