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I recently took a job at a startup that I am somewhat overqualified for in order to facilitate a move back home and a transition from government to tech. I am currently in my second week at work.

When I was being hired, the recruiter was big on saying that the position was one that could lead to others within the company, and that the company was big on internal hiring.

I already have an idea what I would like to do later on in the company and what I might do to build experience for that job.

When is a good time to bring up with the head of my current division that this is what I would like to do for the organization? Also, what are some dos and don'ts for having this conversation, which is obviously somewhat sticky?

Thanks for any input on this question.

  • 1
    I upvoted an answer below, but in short: Not until you PROVE yourself, and 2 weeks is definitely nowhere near, even 3 months may not be enough. You'll get a feel for it when your colleagues and bosses start to rely on you for assistance. – tsOverflow Jul 12 '12 at 20:49
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Most companies like the idea about looking within first for job openings, unless of course if the decision to look outside first is motivated by political reasonings (Eg. VP's poker buddy, complete lack of faith in the talent of internal resources, finding yes-men for political power plays, etc...)

The reasoning for looking within is that it is one of the few real tools a company has to battle attrition for a number of reasons like people leaving the company for better career development. If they know that you are unhappy in your current position or want to grow in career and responsibility, then there may be no room to do this where they are currently at.

Of course it is good for employees too because it means that their resume is not further tarnished by a less than 2 year job hop if they are miserable in their current role. I have transferred before for such a reason where I was working in a company that had many very different business units, but the business unit I was in was so festeringly political, hostile to employees, and sufferring from careless self immolation to the point of hemhoraging money at a spectacular rate. I started to accept that nearly all IT jobs were this horrible and painful to work for in real life, so I wanted to make a committment to suffer at just one company for more than 2 years. When a transfer came up to a new division that fit my skill set, it seemed like the perfect opprortunity to retain tenure and escape a situation that had me thoroughly depressed. The process was great (however the new division turned out to be the single worst place I have ever worked for, bar none, considerably more terrible than the division I left, but that is beside the point).

Knowing that many companies look on this favorably, the most important things to keep in mind is that you want a transfer to be smooth so that the old manager, and the new manager don't both end up holding a grudge against you, or each other.

  • In interviewing for an internal position with a new manager, make it clear to him that you hold your current responsibilities in high regard and as such you wish to have at least 4 weeks notice to make sure you aren't leaving a mess behind.

  • Be honest to both managers about your career goals and your loyalty to the company as a whole.

  • Keep an eye out on the job postings for that perfect position in the other department to open up. Most companies have a seperate job board for internal people where jobs are posted for a period of time before they go public on the website.

  • Don't bring up a desire to transfer to a new division to your current manager in conversation. This will just make him think that you are unhappy and there is not much that he/she can do about it.

  • Most companies have an annual review process, and part of this involves the manager finding out what your long term career prospects are and how the company can help you meet these. This is the perfect opportunity to bring up a desire for career advancement. I would still avoid talking about transfers at this point, but the manager will know if your career prospects don't align with his current business unit at all and if another division is more suited for you. Let the manager figure this out for himself, don't straight up tell him that you wish to transfer.

  • It is frowned upon in most places if you try to transfer too early. Check the employee manual for rules on internal transfers and see if your situation is acceptable. Generally an annual review means the perfect amount of time in your current role before this thought should even be entertained.

  • Bad blood and jealousy between departments can still happen even if you do everything right. Offer to throw in some of your free time to continue answering questions for the new guy(s) in the old department as a sign of good will and generosity. This removes some of the pain to the guys in the old department and helps bolster any bridges for you to come back someday if you need an escape route. Further it demonstrates to your new manager that you really are an exceptional person and he will be delighted that such a thoughtful and devoted person has just joined the team.

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    +1 Don't bring up a desire to transfer to a new division to your current manager in conversation. This will just make him think that you are unhappy and there is not much that he/she can do about it. – mhoran_psprep Jul 11 '12 at 23:13
  • Full disclosure: I was hired in support rather than in, say, project management, which I think is a better fit for my skillset (some coding, some project management). I took the job to move back home to CA and to get involved at this company. A friend recently suggested that this was a mistake and that the thing to do in my case was either to quit now and to find another job, or to talk to my manager. Interested to hear what you might think about these tacks. – fox Jul 12 '12 at 5:15
  • @fox Leaving now would certainly reinforce the very negative stereotype that actually harms all of us collectively in that many employers believe that hiring somebody who is over-qualified for a position is always a mistake. This same attitude is closely corellated with the rampant "ageism" that many unemployed Dot-Commers and gray beards suffer from when they and their decades of experience are passed up. This company very positively doesn't seem to have this prejudice. You made a life choice to move back, and if I had to decide what was more damning for my career, taking a job that ... – maple_shaft Jul 12 '12 at 11:05
  • ... I may be overqualified for, or moving back and having an 8 month gap in my employment while I look for the perfect job, then I think I would make the same choice as you. You can always explain a job you are overqualified for on a personal life choice to move back home and loyalty. It is a lot harder to justify a lengthy gap in employment. – maple_shaft Jul 12 '12 at 11:07
  • That's good advice. Mostly I've been terrified that this is going to look really out of sorts on my resume, though I love the environment and think that there may be a fair amount of promotional opportunity. – fox Jul 13 '12 at 2:26
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First - check any HR policies you've got on hand. If there's any sort of employee intake/transition period, then wait to finish that before you ask. Usually it's deliberately spelled out whether you can or can't move.

If not - I'd say 6 months before bringing it up at all, and minimum 1 year before you start asking about serious preparation or consideration. Even that can be aggressive given the vibe of the company.

In terms of guidelines - I'm always a "see a bigger picture" advocate. Here's the basic things to consider:

  • Someone paid for you to join this company - even if you didn't get relocation money, you had to be trained, hired, equipped with a place to work and tools for the job, and you needed help to get going in the organization. Who paid? When do they expect to recover the investment with your productive work?

  • What's the expectation of your producitivity cycle? Are you mostly a crisis solver for a limited time project? Are they figuring you'll bridge a learning curve in X number of months? Will a desperate need for you go away in a certain time frame?

  • What is the relative importance of where you are vs. where you'd like to go in terms of the organization? No matter how cool the new job, you'll get less support if it's seen as less critical to the organization's mission.

  • What is the relationship between the current group and the group? Are they in the same division? Collegues, enemies, neutral? Is it politically helpful to your current group for you to transfer to the new group.

Knowing these things ahead of time can influence how you present the question and how your bosses hear it. It's funny in cases like these how much more influence you can have when you know the background. Often the same question can sound helpful or abrasive depending on the asker's sensitivity to environmental conditions.

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Two weeks is definitely too soon, because they hired you for this position. But there is no problem with asking about opportunities, but be sure not to show that you want to take over the company, managers don't like that, and talk with them and with HR before applying for a new position in the company.

You should at least wait 4 to 6 months, and make sure you show you are mobile, if you are too good at doing your job they will have no reason (unless they really want to keep you) to move you.

On the other hand, a lot of (I would say most) companies don't recruit overqualified people precisely for this reason (because they often "try to make what they want with people..." and it's easier with younger or even underqualified people).

So if they hired knowing you are overqualified they had to be expecting this.

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