Searching for a new job doesn’t always mean leaving your current employer — in fact, some of the most exciting career opportunities may lie within your company.
Unlike an external job search — where you might reach out to contacts on LinkedIn or apply to roles on Indeed.com — an internal job search will rely on the strength of your relationships with the colleagues you encounter at work every single day.
Here are a few strategic ideas to build a network within your organization that will propel you into an elevated role or a new department.
Do amazing work and make your boss love you.
It’s tough to imagine angling for a new role without first being a stand-out in your current position — after all, your boss’s endorsement will likely count for a lot when you’re under consideration for advancement. Review all the metrics on which you’re evaluated. Are you hitting them out of the park? Is your boss heaping on the praise? If so, see if you can assume any higher-level responsibilities — perhaps taking a project off of your boss’s plate. If not, you may want to hold off on pursuing a new position and instead build a track record of success where you are.
It’s amazing how many opportunities fall into your lap — and how many relevant contacts you can make — when you become the “go-to” person for a particular skill or area of knowledge. Your organization’s social media guru is always asked to lead training sessions, contribute to the company blog, and do media interviews. What skills differentiate you from the pack? Can you carve a niche for yourself? Identify your specialty and be sure to articulate it clearly to your manager and others within your company.
Learn how your work fits into the bigger picture.
Your company’s “all-hands” meetings may seem like a pain, but they actually present a huge opportunity to absorb important information about the vision for your organization. Listen closely and take notes whenever you have the opportunity to hear from senior leaders; you will gain an understanding for how your work fits in with the larger goals of the company. Once you develop a thorough understanding of your organization and its many teams, you’ll be better prepared to speak thoughtfully with colleagues and leaders — as well as to suggest great ideas that will help the organization meet its goals.
Build relationships across departments.
Ask for opportunities to work on project teams that will expose you to key players in other departments. Having relationships with colleagues in other departments will make it easier for you to acquire information and get things done. As an added bonus, you may hear about job openings and opportunities for advancement before they’re publicly announced.
So few people bother to follow-up on conversations that doing so will brand you as someone who is thoughtful and dedicated. When you run into your CFO in the elevator or you speak with your boss’s boss’s boss at the holiday party, shoot him/her a quick note of thanks: “Shelly, it was good running into you on Tuesday. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me for awhile about XYZ. Thought you might be interested in this article I came across about ABC. Would love to chat more about this sometime!” This lets you turn a chance interaction into an ongoing relationship.
Find a sponsor.
Mentors offer sage wisdom and guidance on day-to-day workplace situations, but sponsors wield the power to open doors and propel you to great new opportunities. Vault defines a sponsor as “an active advocate who seeks out new opportunities for you, uses his or her influence to make sure the right people know about your accomplishments and recommends that you be promoted or given a raise.”
Often, you will need someone powerful in your corner to ascend the professional ranks. So, how do you find this person? Pay attention to executives who seem to respect what you bring to the table. Find small opportunities to fill them in on the projects you’re working on, as well as to share your interests in moving up and your ideas for the organization. Over time, this relationship can advance into sponsorship — and you may find yourself in a coveted new role!
Get the skills you need to level up in your career.