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Suppose my dream job is with division Q at employer Y. Division Q is not hiring but division R at the same employer is. Is it bad form to apply at division R, with the hope that, when a position at division Q opens up, I will be in a good position to make an internal move?

I always thought it was, but Eric Lippertin this answer writes

I've had people show up for interviews who were intending on obtaining the given position as stepping stone to a completely different position. Those people are far more dangerous; they will suck resources out of your organization for no benefit in return.

I thought that moving from one position to another within the same organisation would not be unusual or destructive. In fact, the organisation would already know me, and if I am competent, I don't see why this is dangerous. What am I missing?

  • I don't understand the problem. Is not every position a stepping stone to the next? Does Division R expect you to devote the rest of your life to them? Who knows what opportunities you will discover later on. – emory Mar 26 '15 at 22:26
  • @emory I think this is about the premeditated plan to use the position in division R only to be at an advantage as an internal candidate when division Q is hiring. That may be 6 months or 6 years later. – gerrit Mar 26 '15 at 22:30
  • For example, the Navy is high on internal candidates. Should someone who dreams of being a SEAL just not enlist unless the recruiter can promise him a SEAL spot. If he accepts a position on an aircraft carrier just so he can be in position for SEAL recruitment, then he is "sucking resources out of the carrier organization for no benefit in return". I say he should apply and let the carrier group decide. Then if he gets the chance apply to be a SEAL and if he succeeds he should not feel guilty about it. – emory Mar 26 '15 at 22:39
  • There's a difference between joining the aircraft carrier specifically so you can become a SEAL later, and joining the aircraft carrier and taking the opportunity to become a SEAL when it arises. In the described case, you already know that you will be leaving division R as soon as you can get into division Q, this means that division R will need to hire a new candidate at that point when they were hoping to have found someone for the long term. – Cronax Mar 27 '15 at 9:53
  • To clarify, the specific situation I was referring to was a candidate who wanted to work for team X, and was told by HR "Team X isn't hiring; apply for team Y, which you have no interest in and have no particular aptitude for, get them to hire you, and then transfer to team X when they have an opening". Team Y ends up paying for an unmotivated employee while they wait, and then having to go through the whole expensive process of hiring again. – Eric Lippert Mar 27 '15 at 16:43
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It used to be very common, that though the great areas of a company never hired externally, some of the less great areas did so you took a job in those areas with the unstated intent of transferring as soon as feasible to a better department.

One place near me this was very true for was Caterpillar. It used to be very hard to get on because they paid very well and had some really great jobs, and benefits. So people with decent amounts of experience would apply for jobs they were way overqualified for knowing that at some point they would have the opportunity to transfer into a better job.

This benefited the employer because they would get some high quality employees working very hard and doing their best in positions that were not terribly popular. It also meant that the company could just leave the under-performers in these entry jobs when they do not meet the standards for the more desired jobs.

So long as you are willing to do the job you are hired into for at least 18 months then your employer is going to ok with your reasoning. If you are unwilling to give the position that long then you and the company would be better served by holding out for a position you would prefer.

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    "So long as you are willing to do the job" And able to do it competently! In the end, the employer is still going to have to believe you're a good fit for the open position. Division R may be hiring, but it doesn't mean they're going to hire you, especially if you've got a Division Q skillset. – user29165 Mar 26 '15 at 16:30
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I thought that moving from one position to another within the same organisation would not be unusual or destructive. In fact, the organisation would already know me, and if I am competent, I don't see why this is dangerous. What am I missing?

You are looking at it from your perspective and the perspective of the group you want to move into. But what about the group that hired you? That manager was trying to put together a long term plan with his staffing. (S)He spent time and money looking to hire the right person. Now you leave at the first opportunity to get into your desired position. This team has now lost a member and needs to spend time and resources repeating the original exercise. Seems costly and destructive for that team when I look at it.

IMHO, this is bad form unless you made it clear to the hiring team that you had other aspirations. If you did and they hired you anyway, then more power to you.

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If you stay with the hiring team for a reasonable amount of time (one major project, several major updates, 4 years, something like that), it's certainly reasonable after that to move on to another product/project/division/whatever.

You'll want to work with management in both old and new departments to coordinate the timing of the move and make sure someone in the department you're leaving has captured all the knowledge about that product which you have and others may not. Expect to be on call for some number of months after you move to help with that transition.

Be aware that internal hiring is not always easier than external, depending on what the hiring group is looking for and what the relationship between the two groups is. Internal job change difficulty tends proportional to how many steps up the management tree you have to go to find someone who is responsible for both.

And remember that even Internally you need to pass the interviews and show that you have what they're looking for. You do bypass the layers which can only say no, but you still need to get people to say yes. If this is really your plan, you should try to excel in the first assignment so folks want to bring you on board for the second. If you aren't going to be excited enough by tje first assignment to do that, the move becomes harder. It's almost never a good idea to take a job you really don't like in the hope of upgrading; it's ok to take one that isn't perfect in the hope that the perfect job opens later.

And who knows; after you've been in this job for a few years you may decide it's a fine place to stay for a while longer. Or there maybe a reorg or a new project which changes everyone's plans. Long term planning is a good exercise, but life is what happens while you were making plans.

(I was tempted to find out if the Watson group could use me when they started scaling up. But i'd changed assignments recently and felt I owed my current group more time to pay back their investment in me. Besides, Watson would probably have wanted me to move to NYC, and I'm pretty happily rooted where I am.)

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