It’s easier to find another job when you already have one. Being employed is a plus, giving a prospective employer comfort that an applicant has already been successful and has gained some experience in a particular field. Finding a new job with your current employer may not be as easy as finding one with a new employer, for several reasons. Unlike an outside applicant, your current employer knows a lot about your habits, performance, attitude, and productivity. It’s difficult to embellish your strengths and hide your weaknesses.
- network internally
- your job, and do it well
- look for opportunities to work on cross-functional teams
- make a career plan and work it
- keep your eye on the company compensation plan
- apply for every job that is posted
- badmouth your current job, boss, or co-workers
- embellish your resume
- assume you have an advantage
- overreact if you don’t get the job
It’s important to build good working relationships with your own team members. If you want to move up in the company, it’s important that you widen your internal network by getting to know as many people as possible. Approach each day as a networking opportunity. Be open, friendly and eager to learn about other people. Have lunch with new acquaintances. Seek out a mentor from another department. Read the company newsletter and local paper for announcements about other company employees, and send an email congratulating them on their accomplishments. Share information and articles you know would be of interest to others.
Nothing succeeds like success. Learn all you can about your job and ask questions. Ask the top performer in your department for tips on how you can be successful in the company and improve your performance. Seek honest feedback about your performance and make the necessary adjustments. Be teachable and a constant learner. Perform projects under budget and ahead of schedule, when possible. You won’t have to convince anyone you’re a top performer when your performance speaks for itself.
Making contacts is good for your career, but working on a cross-functional teams gives team members from other departments a chance to experience what you can do. You can demonstrate your skills, abilities, judgement, problem solving, collaboration, and all those critical job and leadership skills employers want and reward.
Does your company have a career fast track? Are there positions within the company that offer progression from your current position to an upper level management job or a higher level technical or professional position? Find out if your company requires employees to stay in a job for a length of time before they can apply for and move to a new position, and create a timeline to reach your next position.
Jobs usually come with salary ranges. Annual merit increases or COLAs boost your salary, which puts more money in your pocket. That’s a good thing, unless you stay too long in a job and become too expensive for the next position in your career plan. When your salary approaches the mid range for your position, it’s time to start looking for the next opportunity. Your current mid-range salary will probably be in the low range for the job at the next level, making you attractive and affordable.
Remember that career plan you made? Stick to your plan and watch the company’s job board and network to find out when your next target job is available. Applying for any (and every) open job just to move around makes you look scattered, without a clear goal and even a little desperate. Put in at least a year in one position, demonstrate exceptional performance, meet your goals, learn as much as you can, and make a move when the time is right.
Every job has its positives and negatives. You don’t have to be best buddies with your co-workers, or love your boss but you should respect them and what they bring to the job. The office complainer doesn’t make the best impression on a future manager. Word spreads fast between managers and staff. A negative attitude will trump the best resume. Negative emails or Facebook posts can go viral on the company email or Intranet. Keep a positive attitude and your negative comments to yourself.
What’s the point? Sure, it’s tempting, but an internal candidate’s work habits and performance are as easy to verify as his last performance review. All your co-workers, team members and anyone else you worked with over the years are easily accessible references. An external candidate can choose only his best and most loyal references–a luxury internal candidates don’t have. Be honest. Everything on your resume and application has to be true and defendable. Instead of a new job you could be packing your things in a cardboard box and headed out the door.
Many companies give preference to internal candidates, but don’t rely on company loyalties. While you’ve been working within the company, external candidates have been gaining knowledge, skills and experience outside in ways that may not be available at your current job. While you are familiar with company policies and systems, an outsider may offer cutting edge technical skills and fresh ideas. You could also be identified by your current job more than your potential. Instead of a serious competitor, you may just be Bob from Accounting, or Harriett from Marketing. Keep up with what’s going on in your field outside of your company so you can stay marketable.
So you didn’t get the job. You still have to get up, get dressed, and go to back to your old job the next day. Instead of being angry, hurt or defensive, take an honest look at your performance and what you could have done better. Get some honest feedback from the hiring manager, your own manager or co-workers. Did you lack the skills, education, or experience to move up? Could your interview technique used some polishing? Is there something about you or your work that you don’t know that everyone else does? Find a trusted friend or mentor and find out so that you don’t make the same mistakes the next time. Be a good loser, congratulate the successful candidate, and learn from the experience to prepare for the next opportunity.
Internal candidates aren’t entitled to get the job. Avoiding mistakes and making the right moves will make you competitive with other internal and external candidates alike. Make a career plan, gain experience, sharpen your skills and be prepared to take the next step toward your career goals.