Changing Jobs Inside Your Company

Author: Geri Schneider Winters

You want to find a new job, but you do not want to leave your company. You know the job you want to do, but are having a hard time convincing someone to let you do that job.

When I worked for Rational Software, in order to get greater responsibility, or a different job, I had to demonstrate that I could do the work required. Not talk about it, demonstrate it by doing it. I had the same experience at Lockheed Missiles and Space. This is a very effective approach to changing jobs within the same company.

The first step is to identify the job you want to do. Go through job descriptions, or write yourself a one page description of your desired job. Second, determine what manager you would be working for. This might be your current manager or someone else. Then, talk to your current manager, and the new manager, about what you want to do.

The best situation is if your manager is sympathetic and will help you move into the new position. In this case, schedule a meeting with your manager, explain what you want to do, and ask your manager to help you work out a plan for transitioning into the new job. If another manager is involved, include that manager in the discussions of the transition plan.

To create a transition plan, start with a job description, from your Human Resources department. Then write a plan to get the education and experience you do not currently have. This plan might include the need for additional training; getting experience doing the work of the new position; getting exposure to the right people who can support you in obtaining the new position; producing papers, articles, or presentations in the skills or knowledge of the new job; or training other people in the new skills (to demonstrate that you know them well enough to train others).

This transition into a new position might take one or two years. As long as you keep working on the plan, you will eventually achieve your goal. You should meet with your manager quarterly to make sure that you are doing the right thing, and to see if the plan needs to change. If another manager is involved, you should also meet with that person quarterly to report on progress, refine your plan, and develop a relationship with the new manager.

You may be wondering why your manager would help you move into a new job. I have found that most managers, and certainly the good ones, really like helping people better themselves. If you are motivated and hard working, your manager will probably be pleased to help you work your way into a new position. If that new position means you will be working for someone else, your manager may be sad to lose a good employee, but happy for you and your success.

What if your manager is not sympathetic and will not help you? Then you have a harder job of working on the transition by yourself. The first step is to get a copy of the job description of the job you want to do. You can find this in your Human Resources department. Then, make yourself a transition plan as I described above. In this situation, you will have to continue doing your current work to an excellent level, and also start doing the work of the new job. In your annual or semi-annual performance review, demonstrate to your manager that you have done you own job very well, and also that you have been doing the work of the other position. If the transition plan is lengthy, you can then propose to your manager that he or she help you complete the transition process. If you have already learned the new job, then propose to your manager that you move into the new position. If the new position is working for someone else, then you can approach the other manager and demonstrate to him or her that you have been doing the work of the new job. Then propose that you start working for the new manager.

By taking one of these approaches, in a year or two you will find that you have the skills you need for the new position. Hopefully, you have the support of your manager and can move into that new job. If you do not have the support of your manager, then you can go to his or her manager or your human resources department and present the case for a job change to them. In the worst case, you will have obtained the skills you need to look for the new job outside your company, so the time spent developing your new skills is not wasted.

Assuming that you are trying to transition into a Business Analyst job, here are some specific things you can do:

1. Volunteer to take notes at team meetings and distribute those notes to your team members after the meeting. This demonstrates that you listen well and can act as a scribe or interviewer.
2. Volunteer to facilitate team meetings, meetings with stakeholders, or discussion sessions. Be sure you do not participate, but act strictly as a facilitator.
3. Make friends with a Business Analyst in your company and volunteer to help with his or her work. Things that a BA might be happy to have help with include interviews, observations, JAD sessions (the BA could be either facilitator or scribe and you can take the other role), writing first drafts of requirements documents, and managing requirements. Be sure you are a helper and do not try to take over your friend’s job! Learn everything you can from this person.
4. Look for a large project, preferable one that has 2 or more Business Analysts working on the team. Volunteer to the project manager or the manager of the BA team to do some information gathering for the Business Analysts. This is the work of a Starter Project BA. If you do a good job doing a little work for the project, ask the project manager or the manager of the BA team if you can come onto the team as a Starter Project BA either half-time or full-time. Explain that your work will be to support the other BA’s on the team. Let the project manager or the manager of the BA team negotiate with your manager for your time. Learn everything you can from the other Business Analysts on the team.


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About Geri Schneider Winters

Geri Schneider Winters is the primary author of the popular Use Case book "Applying Use Cases: A Practical Guide" and the founder of Wyyzzk, Inc. She has over 25 years experience spanning the software development lifecycle. Geri has learned her craft working with folks such as Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Ivar Jacobson, Walker Royce, Scott Ambler, Warren Woodford, Philippe Kruchten, and Kendall Scott, along with many less well known, but equally talented, people. Geri has worked in many companies in many industries, including IBM, Boeing, Lockheed, Adobe, Intuit, Delta Dental, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Money Store, Charles Schwab, The Federal Reserve Bank, Visa International, USAA, Stanford University, University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, HiLCoE College, Agilent, Knights Technology, Deloitte and Touche, Safeway, and Coca-Cola Enterprises.