This post turned out really long so I broke it up into segments for easier consumption.

I'm currently working in a big company and quite unsatisfied with my job. The position itself is actually not that bad. The boss is very laid back and accessible, the colleagues are cool, the things we work on are very interesting and relevant, pay and benefits are great. Unfortunately, the job doesn't fit me and is driving me to the brink of a burnout.

I don't fit the required skillset, I don't fit into the department socially (not the right personallity type) and I have a knack for always getting the tasks that no one wants anything to do with. It's frustrating, to say the least. Yes, I've tried talking to my boss, several times. It's complicated. Let's just say I don't see much hope for me in my current department. For more infos, see the background section below.

Going to a different company sounds like a bad idea right now (see background section) so I would like to change jobs within this company.


The problem is that the type of work I'm most qualified for (again, see background section - it's a bit complicated) is usually outsourced. There must be some niches in this company for me but how do I find them?

This company is so huge (10 000 people in R&D alone) that I wouldn't even really know where to start looking. I suck at networking so I'm not well connected enough to just ask around. I already talked to my boss, who is open to the topic of job changes within the company, but he doesn't know anything suitable. Neither do the colleagues I asked. There is of course the company directory but it's hard to find accurate descriptions of what a department does in there.

I know two people who might know something. Neither of them work close by, neither of them work with me and I'm not friends with either of them so I really have no way whatsoever to just walk by and ask casually. If I where to ask them it would have to be very explicit. I don't really want to write an e-mail since that would leave a record of my job search - though I'm not sure if I'm being paranoid here. I don't wanna call since I don't want my colleagues to overhead that I'm looking for a new job. And, well, I hate talking on the phone. I could set up a meeting but that would be very inconvenient (long way to get there) and overblown for what is essentially a five-minute-conversation, if not even shorter.

Do you have any idea on what I could do short of writing awkward e-mails to people I have never met based on the company directory and wild guesses?

Background (optional)

I've been working in this position for over four years now and my condition keeps getting worse. I just don't fit the required skill profile and try as I might I don't think I ever will. The job requires things that I'm bad at and the things that I'm good at are not required. This is my first job out of university, so I chalk it up to lack of experience. I thought I would do better.

The job turned out to require above average social skills. Lots of things are accomplished through politics, i.e. meetings, talks, phone calls and e-mails. We work a lot with partners outside of the company. Many projects are handled with only loose and informal collaborations within the company. If you want to get something done you have to talk to people, make them like you and make them do what you want without pressuring them. My social skills are severely lacking. I've tried hard over the last years to bring them up to scratch but my success has been painfully limited. This constant fight is draining me badly.


The reason I can't handle the social part is that I have Aspergers Syndrome. I didn't know that at the time I got the job. I thought I was simply lacking practice and that I would learn if I tried hard enough. I didn't. What I got instead was serious depressions, half a burnout and a diagnosis for Aspergers. I can communicate fine on a technical level, but the politics and manipulation and mind reading that are required in the office every day suck the last bit of life out of me. I know the theory. I've been to seminars. I've read tutorials. I talked to people. My brain just can't handle the level of social finesse that are required.

My employee doesn't know about my Aspergers and I intend to keep it that way. I don't think anybody would really understand, so I don't see the benefit in disclosing it.

End Edit

My strength lies in software development, algorithms and datastructures. However, this type of work is very rare around here and mostly outsourced. I talked to my boss about this and it doesn't look like I could get a job like this in my current department.

Another problem is that I always end up with tasks that nobody wants anything to do with. Those tasks are not unimportant, actually my boss(es) assure me they are very important - and I sort of agree - but none of my colleagues actually see it that way and apparently can't be convinced. It's not that they are actively sabotaging or mobbing me. Nothing I would go to my boss about. It's just that they don't want anything to do with my topics. Wherever I have contact with their work - which is often - it's like swimming against the stream. There's always resistance, most people are grumpy about having to put up with my efforts, I have pretty much no one who I'm actually working together with (just alongside). I constantly have to convince people to help me, or even take me seriously. I can't do this any more. I want a job where my contribution is valued by the team, not where the team is annoyed by it.

Additionally I don't fit the department culture. Most people here are really similar so they get along great. Many of them meet up after work or even go on vacation together. I don't. I'm too introverted, too reclusive, too geeky, too unathletic. I don't do subtle interaction well. I don't do small talk. I don't get their jokes. I can't participate in the witty banter. I don't care about the topics my colleagues like to talk about. To make it short: I'm always on the outside, never fitting in.

Going to a different company in this area would be a severe downgrade in almost every way since we're not in or near a major city and every company around here is working for my current company in one way or another. I'd be moving down the foodchain, which is never pleasant. Especially socially it would be a massive downgrade. Considering that my wife is working at the same company as I that would make things at home rather awkward as well.

Moving to a different place is also not really an option for family-related reasons.

To be clear: I do consider both alternatives (different company and different town) but only as a very last resort.

  • Why are you trying to discreetly look for a position in a new department if you've already spoken to your boss about it and he's fine with it? Email the people you think may have leads. – dyeje Jan 8 '16 at 17:45
  • Well, I didn't say I was actively looking. We openly speculated if there where a place to go, he didn't know anything so I decided to stay. This was about a year ago. He doesn't know I'm actually looking for something. I'm actually a bit undecided here. It's okay to move on after 3-5 years, but should I talk to him first? Probably, but it feels strange to say I want to leave but don't know where to. Like I'm almost gone but not really... – Lighthouse Jan 8 '16 at 20:23
  • Try linkedin. Search for all of those from your company, and look at the profiles of any with promising titles. Look for skillsets that are similar to what you are looking for. When you find them, try to connect. Email them and explain what your situation is. Ask if they know of any positions within the company. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Jan 8 '16 at 20:42
  • You also might look into working remotely. If you are a skilled "techie" person there's possibly a good opportunity out there for you. Talk to some recruiters. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Jan 8 '16 at 20:45
  • 1
    At the risk of pointing out the obvious: have you talked to your wife about this? I wouldn't get her involved in a job search if you decide to look for another position/department but the support of an SO can do wonders for dealing with self-doubt, burnout or depression. Anyway, I feel that this question isn't a great fit for our format and I've voted to close it. I can only suggest going to your manager and having an open conversation about opportunities outside your current department. – Lilienthal Jan 8 '16 at 21:37

Companies advertise positions internally, as well as externally. I would go to the HR site and look at what they have posted. Alternatively look on sites such as the ones that have been used by the company to post job description in the past (Monster? Workopolis? LinkedIn?)

If you're hell bent on contacting people within the company don't present your request to them over email. Ask to meet with them in person instead:

Hello Robert, My name is Lighthouse, I work in department X, although I don't think we've had the pleasure of ever meeting in person (edit to fit your circumstances). Would you mind if we met over a cup of coffee tomorrow at lunch? There's something I'd like to run by you if you have a few minutes available. Alternatively, if you have a few spare minutes during which I could drop in and speak to you in private that would be great. Regards, etc.

Then when you meet with said person be frank:

Hey, thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I apologize if this is forward of me, but I've been told that you're uniquely positioned to help me in this matter. I've been working in department X for 4 years now, but I would be interested in a more software oriented position within the company. Would you happen to know if any departments have openings in this field?

Personally I think that if your company has a history of outsourcing software development then your best bet will be simply moving on.

Good luck!

On an unrelated note, it seems to me like a large portion of your difficulties simply lie in maneuvering in company politics. Consider that changing positions might not "fix" your problem - if politics is that prevalent within your organization then you will run into it again in every department.

If I were you I'd look into reading up on some self-help books on the subject, or maybe even signing up to some webinars, or other type of courses. You may benefit more from learning how to get with the flow than switching jobs.

  • The company usually does not post jobs, only those they can't find anyone for internally. You get the jobs by talking to the right person. I got mine by talking to someone on an expo. I'll still check though. Regarding office politics: I know it's a problem. I've been trying to learn it for 4 years. It's still killing me. That's why I would like to do something more technical than my current job. If I can't it might be a better idea to leave the company, but that's my last resort. – Lighthouse Jan 8 '16 at 20:33
  • Have you tried reading "how to win friends and influence people"? – Philip Jan 9 '16 at 5:26

4 years and you still haven't become skilled at your job is not really a good recommendation. You may be better off looking outside the company for work.

At least then you can put down four years experience, without mentioning anything about not being able to handle it. It's a good solid looking block of time to hold a job and would look great on a resume.

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