Conquering the internal transfer

It’s your first day at a new job. You’re both excited and nervous and looking forward to all the unknown adventures that await you. But this time, you don’t have to learn a new commute, make new friends, or fill out a W-2. Your big career move is an internal transfer; you’re simply moving across the hall to join another team at the same company.

When you switch roles at work, it can feel as though you’re starting over. But internal job transfers present a unique set of circumstances—you often find yourself in limbo between the familiar and the new. And they require a unique set of approaches for navigating the transition smoothly.

Embracing the unknown

Whether you’re looking to push yourself professionally, or you’ve fallen out of love with your job, there comes a moment in every career when you start to wonder: where do I go next? If you love the company you work for, an internal job transfer is one way to venture into new territory without completely changing scenery.

When you keep the blinders on—or cling too closely to a narrow view of your ideal career trajectory—you limit yourself from a whole range of possibilities.

Kelsey Aroian embarked on a different path when she decided to transfer departments. Currently running Customer and Partner Marketing at Asana, Kelsey first joined the company as one of the first members of the recruiting team—a role she enjoyed and felt passionate about.

After a year and a half, opportunity unexpectedly came knocking for Kelsey in the form of a marketing role. “I’m constantly looking for new challenges,” says Kelsey. “The advantage of working for a small company is that opportunities grow as the team grows. It’s a good way to explore other roles you might be suited for.”

The key is to stay open to opportunities. When you keep the blinders on—or cling too closely to a narrow view of your ideal career trajectory—you limit yourself from a whole range of possibilities. For Kelsey, a couple of initial cross-functional projects with the marketing team led to an opportunity to work on university marketing initiatives, and eventually, her current role managing marketing programs with customers and partners.

“This wasn’t on my radar as something I could do when I first started,” Kelsey says. But being open to the unknown led to something worth embracing—without having to go very far. “It felt good to ask a whole new set of questions,” Kelsey says about moving from Recruiting to Marketing. “It was a totally different perspective on the company.”

Balancing humility and strength

Once you make the move to your new team, you may find yourself overwhelmed by a mix of emotions. On the one hand, there’s the comfort and familiarity of working at a company you already know well. On the other, you’re faced with a new set of responsibilities and will work alongside a new group of teammates.

The sudden shift from being an expert in your previous role to the newbie on your team can be humbling and disorienting, especially when you stay at the same company. But like starting any new job, remember that you aren’t going to know everything on day one. It’s also important to tap into the skills and strengths you do have as you navigate your new team.

Impostor syndrome is real,” says Kelsey. “Learn the vocabulary of your new team. You know a lot of things already. You just have to learn how to talk about them differently.” Since you’re working at the same company, you may find that you have a lot of institutional knowledge or relevant information from your previous role to share with your new team.

First impressions still matter even when you switch jobs internally.

First impressions, of course, still matter even when you switch jobs internally. When you join your new team, be extra mindful of how you communicate during your first few weeks to ensure a smooth transition. One thing not to do is to waltz into your first team meeting and tell everyone they’re doing things wrong.

As Asana product manager Jackie Bavaro writes, “That’s a quick way to alienate people. Instead, ask why they chose to do things that way and be genuinely curious about the answer.” Sharing what you know can help you settle into your new role sooner, but it’s just as important to be humble and eager to learn from your new team.

Shaping a new identity

Landing a new job at a new company is often a chance for a fresh start. It’s an opportunity to reflect on and reshape your identity at work. But when you move jobs internally, there isn’t the same hard stop and start between roles. The experience is more like an overlapping process of transition.

For Josh Torres, that process began as a series of small steps from the user operations team to the social media team at Asana. As a founding member of User Operations, Josh started exploring other areas of interest as the team solidified. Seeing an untapped opportunity to use social channels to provide customer support, Josh began working with the marketing team to execute on that idea.

The success of that program led to a conversation about Josh leading social media strategy more broadly. But the switch didn’t happen overnight. Josh developed a six-month plan with his current and prospective managers to transition from User Operations to Social Media Marketing. “It was kind of like a trial period for everyone,” says Josh. “There was always the option for me to not move forward, but it was a good way to get some early wins on smaller projects.”

In fact, a couple of quick wins can help you define and own your new role at work, whether you’re shifting from HR to Sales, Operations to Creative Services, or Marketing to Product Management. You’ll start to build confidence as well as credibility.

While you might know some of your new team members socially by virtue of working at the same company, your previous job successes and collaboration style aren’t necessarily familiar to them yet. Gaining experience and expertise in your new function will help shift perceptions about who you are and what you do in the eyes of your new and former teammates—as well as your own.

It’s all about relationships

As you start your transition from one department to another, block off time to get to know your new team, what each person is working on, and how you’ll work together. It’s much easier to establish connections over coffee while you’re still new to the team as opposed to several months in.

And just because you’ve moved to a new team doesn’t mean your relationships with former teammates have to end. Make an intentional effort to stay in touch. It’s easy to do that when you still work at the same place. Josh, for instance, regularly schedules lunch with his former manager while formally reporting to a new manager. For Josh, this is a win-win. “I have a manager and a mentor now,” he says.

Ultimately, joining a new team at the same company is a powerful way to grow while not discarding any of the social and intellectual capital you have gained in a previous role. There are many advantages, and perhaps more prominent are the relationships you can establish across different teams.

As someone who has worked in various parts of the company, you’re in a natural position to help connect teammates with other coworkers. And by tapping into your internal network of peers and mentors, you could very well discover a whole new set of possibilities.

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