How To Pull Off An Internal Transfer

geoffblades's picture
Rank: King Kong | banana points 1,917

A lot of people are unhappy in their jobs. In fact, 2.8 million Americans quit their jobs every month.

I've written extensively about how you should quit your job, and for many people, that advice is all they need. There is, however, one situation where that advice does not suffice.

Some people are at the perfect company, but in the wrong job.

Walking away from one company and into another is a tricky path to chart, but transferring within the same company can also be like navigating a minefield.

You have to create the right relationships, develop the right skills, and time your move carefully to pull it off without damaging yourself.

To help you through this process, I've written this guide. But before we jump into the "how" behind this, let's get one thing straight:

There Are No Generic Answers To Your Career

The reason I created a system for figuring out what you want and getting it is because you need a fluid approach. Your path to happiness will change constantly.

What doesn't change is the system you use to chart that path.

This is especially true when it comes to internal transfers. I transferred jobs three times at Goldman Sachs, which was possible because Goldman is fairly flexible when it comes to keeping talent.

The company you work at, on the other hand, might have an entirely different attitude.

So-called experts who say things like, "In all situations, just go up to your manager and tell them you want a transfer," are the same people who tell everyone to start a dropshipping company that sells fake nails.

They're frauds.

However, there is a specific process you can follow for figuring out what role you want, creating the relationships and skills required for it, and achieving the role with minimum friction.

It all starts with deciding where you want to go.

How To Decide To Change Roles In 3 Steps

Deciding to quit can be difficult, and making an internal transfer can be just as tricky.

Getting yourself to a place where you're ready to make this leap requires a three step process:

1. Admit You Are Unhappy

The first step to deciding you need to change roles is admitting you are unhappy. The key to this is asking yourself the right questions:

-Do you spend your mornings fantasizing about not having to work?
-Does it take you an obscene amount of coffee to get going each day?
-Do you ever excitedly tell your friends about your work, or do you try not to think about it?

Those questions are a good start to understanding that you don't want to be where you are. They don't, however, tell you where you want to be.

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h4>2. Describe A Role That Would Make You Happy

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One of the biggest hurdles you'll have to overcome in getting what you want is your fear of uncertainty.

A lot of people think that because they can't immediately name their dream job, they aren't ready to make a move.

Wrong.

Start by describing the qualities of a role that would make you happy. The best part about this is if you followed step one, you're already halfway there. You know what makes you unhappy, now flip those qualities.

Now you have the profile of a job that makes you happy, you just need a name for it.

3. Discover Where Your Dream Job Exists

A lot of people stumble over this step, but there's a trick to it that makes things much easier:

Look at the qualities you want in a job, and focus on developing relevant skills. For example, if you like personal interaction, focus on developing as a communicator.

As you research and improve, you'll develop a greater understanding of what it is about communication you excel at, which will give you a more specific sense of what role you want.

For example, maybe you love advising people. On the other hand, maybe you love debating and collaborating with people. Depending on the case, you're looking at a different set of ideal jobs.

By focusing on the step right in front of you--developing the skills that match your dream job's qualities--you gain a greater sense of what makes you happy, and are able to more clearly define and eventually name your dream job.

And once that dream job is named, the question presents itself: Does that job exist at your current company?

How To Transfer Roles--Without Burning Relationships

If your dream role--or a necessary intermediate role--exists at your current company, an internal transfer is probably your best move. That's assuming you like your company, of course.

Many people find switching roles within a company more stressful than switching companies entirely, and it's not hard to understand why:

-What if your current boss is offended?
-What if you get a reputation of being uncommitted?
-If you don't get the transfer, how do you stay where you are now that everyone knows you want out?
-It's a lot to deal with. However, all of these anxieties rest on one faulty assumption--that the people around you don't care if you're happy.

Unless you work in a toxic environment, establishing an honest, compassionate relationship with your boss and colleagues from the beginning will make your transition much easier.

There are a number of ways to do this:

Develop a mentee/mentor relationship with your boss: Obviously, don't ask your boss for relationship advice, but come to him/her for career advice. They can be a big resource for you, and if they're invested in your future, they'll support your transfer.

Develop friendships deeper than work: Talk to your coworkers about more than your numbers. Get lunch occasionally, socialize after work, and generally show personal investment in them. They will return the favor, and support you pursuing your dream.

Perform well in your current role: This can be hard, especially if you're unhappy, but you need to push yourself to perform in your current role. If you're under-performing, you look like a slacker jumping ship. You need to earn respect and appreciation.

Once everything is in place, all you have to do is ask.

Sometimes Changing Roles Means Getting Promoted

This advice so far has been geared towards people looking to switch to a different part of their company. The system also works, however, for people looking to climb the ladder.

Sometimes you don't love your current role, but you would love the one just ahead of you. By developing the right skills for the job, nurturing supportive relationships, and taking powerful actions, you can score a promotion in much the same way as a transfer.

All you need is a system for doing those three things. If you don't have one of those yet, scroll up.

Comments (40)

Oct 24, 2016

Excellent post. +1

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there" - Will Rogers

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Oct 28, 2016

Good post. I'm lucky to be at a company that actually supports/encourages internal transfers. My manager has recommended working with other sub-departments and networking to figure out where I want to go next. Finding a company that truly seeks to retain its employees helps.

Apr 6, 2018

Could anyone share their thoughts regarding how long you should stay in a position at least before trying to internal transfer? Is a year too soon?

Apr 6, 2018

Since you're already full-time, just check the job postings internally on the companies website and apply. Reach out to groups that have openings and express your interest and how things you do in your current role can be applicable.

Apr 6, 2018

Soggy, thanks for the response. I rarely see ibd analyst job listings (I've seen it once briefly) on the internal job board, so would it be a bad idea to still reach out to somebody in the group to express interest?

Apr 6, 2018

Yes, I think you should. At this point, it is all about if people like you, the quality of your work in the group you're in, and honestly your relationship with HR. HR can be pivotal, sometimes in a positive way, but they can also hinder lateral movement.

Apr 6, 2018

bump

Apr 6, 2018

Not sure if your firm uses an internal transfer application system or if this is an informal transfer process. If it's informal and you're only only talking to the MD, keep it on the down low and don't let anybody know until you actually have the offer in hand. First get the offer, decide if you really want to switch now, and then if you take it then break the news.

I worked at one place where internal transfers happened at a decent rate and I've also worked at a place where it was damn near impossible due to the culture.

Forget about what anyone would say if you made the move. Any understanding boss would realize you're young and still trying to figure out what you want to do. Going from BO to FO isn't a chance that happens often, so jump at the chance if you can. It'll help your career out much more in the long run.

Apr 6, 2018

It's actually through an internal transfer system but I would need approval from my manager since I haven't been there for at least a year yet. Thank you for your words of advice!

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Apr 6, 2018

Deleted.

Apr 6, 2018

elan,

I just answered a similar forum on another thread. Basically, it depends. Given the level of specialization within FIG, you will be at a disadvantage to the generalists out there. Those in TMT or Healthcare won't really see much of a disadvantage at all. That said, if you're a smart guy that received good experience, a PE firm is going to take you over a less polished individual who happened to be in an industry that aligned with their investment focus.

CompBanker

Apr 6, 2018
CompBanker:

elan,

I just answered a similar forum on another thread. Basically, it depends. Given the level of specialization within FIG, you will be at a disadvantage to the generalists out there. Those in TMT or Healthcare won't really see much of a disadvantage at all.

But i thought that healthcare was a pretty narrow and specific specialization as well. Is it possible for healthcare analysts to break into non-HC funds or groups?

Apr 6, 2018
tripleD95:
CompBanker:

elan,

I just answered a similar forum on another thread. Basically, it depends. Given the level of specialization within FIG, you will be at a disadvantage to the generalists out there. Those in TMT or Healthcare won't really see much of a disadvantage at all.

But i thought that healthcare was a pretty narrow and specific specialization as well. Is it possible for healthcare analysts to break into non-HC funds or groups?

Healthcare is a very narrow and specific specialization in terms of understanding the business model and regulatory environment. In terms of valuation and deal process, it frequently mirrors the general M&A deal process. Personally, I worked in HC and now work in a generalist fund, so it is definitely possible.

CompBanker

Apr 6, 2018

FIG isn't archaic. Alchemy and dragon hunting are archaic. That said, I know people who have gone from FIG to industrial-oriented firms.

Apr 6, 2018

Excuse moi.

Thanks for the input.

Apr 6, 2018

yes it is doable. but you do need to understand the other industries as well (meaning studying on your own free time)

Apr 6, 2018

VERY CURIOUS AS WELL

Get busy living

Apr 6, 2018

anyone?

  • Aspiring_Consultant
  •  Apr 6, 2018

With most firms, you won't be able to transfer from sales to IBD. As always, exceptions apply. You'll never get guaranteed a position in M&A following a sales stint to MBA. No exceptions.

Apr 6, 2018

what about M&A to sales? Possible? When should the move be advised in terms of timing

Apr 6, 2018

aspiring_consultant, just out of curiosity... what is your justification behind that?

  • Aspiring_Consultant
  •  Apr 6, 2018

There are firms like Lehman, who want to retain top talent. Thus they will try to accommodate you (or so they claim... not sure how true this is).

Most firms, however, realize the stark differences in skills necessary for each given position. Coming into an interview and stating "I want to work in either IBD or S&T" typically shows a lack of direction and equates a quick ding. I've seen people who interview for IBD get referred to S&T because of a better fit -- however, this is rare; these candidates were exceptionally strong and were obviously better suited for trading. Most candidates would've just gotten dinged.

When they initially hired you for sales, it's because you have the skills for sales. That doesn't mean that you'll automatically be successful in IBD, and it definitely doesn't mean that they'll guarantee you a position in IBD when they have no measure of your performance in the division.

In my experience, IBD is more competitive than sales... jumping from sales to IBD seems like a cheater's way into the industry (and I'm sure that firms realize this).

Apr 6, 2018

Don't know where you studied but at my university (HYPS) S&T was much more competitive, most of the econ people wanted it, as did the engineering/science oriented people.

Why don't you look around for sales desks do more structured deals, rather than just flow business.

Apr 6, 2018

If you have the skills for M&A it doesn't seem that it would be that unlikely, although it's probably largely firm-dependent. Your best bet is to get to know some VPs/MDs in M & A now, and as you build relationships let them know about your desire to do M & A. I know at my bank it would be possible to switch from sales to M & A, but I don't think it's done very often at all...

Apr 6, 2018

starting at a monitor for 18 hrs a day, flipping pitchbooks, turning edits, photocopying, building basic merger models

if you have these impressive high level skills, you may have a shot.

really though if you are smart and can show good reasons why you want to move and why youd be a better fit i think your firm would give you a shot. why youd ever wanna move from s&T to m&A is another story though. if i were you id stick it out and try to move to trading/HF/ get an MBA..good luck

Apr 6, 2018

people with M&A experience have far greater exit opps than S&T.

Apr 6, 2018

iambateman, you have a good point. i'm assuming the work becomes much more interesting (less bitch work) at the post mba level. thus, it seems logical to get the mba after the two year program ends and have a chance to reasses long term goals then. but if i do decide to go to a HF then it would seem logical to make the jump directly like many other analysts i see do in s&t.

Apr 6, 2018

BUMP

Apr 6, 2018

get ready for some internal politics

Apr 6, 2018

No matter - HR said I have to ask my manager first to interview, and that would be a big red flag. (Asking to interview within a week of my start date)

Apr 6, 2018

You're an experienced hire. Wait until you're fully trained and an established performer and then wait double that time on top of that, and THEN go for the internal transfer. In technology, that means 9-12 months. Where you are, that may be shorter or longer.

The jobs will still be there. They'll be different, but they'll still be there. You owe a little loyalty to the guy who offered you the job.

I do think that "Inform your manager first" isn't a very smart policy for a firm to have. It seems to make it a lot easier to get a job OUTSIDE the firm than inside the firm. Either way, though, with just one week on the job, you're going to burn down some bridges if you leave.

Apr 6, 2018

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Apr 6, 2018