I’ve been there. In the four years I’ve been at Dropbox, I’ve had four different roles, from customer service to product manager–successfully working my way into a technical role despite not having a technical degree. So I’ve learned a thing or two about how to set yourself up for success when you want an internal transfer, whatever your company policy on it may be. Here are my recommendations.
1. Take On Additional Projects Related To The Role You Want
Your current role might have nothing to do with the job you really want, but the first step to a successful transfer is to be really good at your current job.
This goes beyond delivering excellent results–it’s important to maintain a positive attitude about what you’re currently doing, even when you’re not 100% excited about it. That being said, if you’re looking to move into a different function that requires an entirely different skill-set, you also need to show you possess those abilities already. How? Take on a couple projects that are relevant to your desired role to showcase what you can do.
Before I made the jump from customer service to business development, I took on extra work to help resolve customer issues related to our partnerships. I became an expert in the product and technical details of the product integrations we had with our partner companies. As a result, the business development team included me in their conversations with partners, and I helped negotiate and resolve the technical aspects of our partnership deals.
So when I formally pursued the move to join the business development team, I’d already established that I had the skills to do the job.
2. Have Regular Career Check-Ins With Your Manager
You (and only you) own your career. Yes, you’ll need others to help you get ahead, but chances are no one’s going to find, evaluate, and secure that next role for you.
If you want to pursue internal opportunities, make that known–tactfully and gradually. The best way to do that is through regular career conversations with your manager. Don’t just chat about your current workload. You should also let your boss know which types of skills and experiences you want to develop. Again, it’s your responsibility to get onto the same page with your boss on what you want for your career. In fact, you should be having periodic career check-ins anyway–even if you’re happy in your job and don’t want to move. If you’re not doing this already, start immediately.
This way, if and when an internal transfer opportunity comes up, it will be easier to find the right time and way to bring it up with your manager. Beforehand, do your due diligence: ask HR about any internal transfer policies to make sure there aren’t logistical barriers. For instance, some companies require you to be in your current role for at least one year before being eligible to move into a different role.
Depending on your relationship with your manager, it can be scary to initiate this conversation, and you might have to navigate some internal politics. But at the end of the day, if you don’t advocate for yourself, you won’t get too far.
3. Enlist The Help Of Someone Who Knows Your Work
Finally, you should consider looping in an ally in your organization who can serve as a career advocate. This should be someone who’s familiar with your work, and with whom you have a strong working relationship with based on mutual respect. Ideally, they should be able to talk about the quality of your work, vouch for you as a teammate, and give examples of how you’ve gone above and beyond your job description to help others.
Having a strong advocate internally can make a big difference when it comes to a hiring manager taking a leap of faith on you–especially if you’re going after a stretch role. Of course, you have to put in the work to earn their respect, and make it worth their while to be your career advocate in the first place.
If you love the company you work for but aren’t fully satisfied with what you’re doing–an internal transfer can be a great way to move forward in your career. However, you’ll need to be willing to put in the work to get there–start with these three things and you might just reap the rewards.
DJ Chung is a product manager at Dropbox. He regularly writes on HackCareer.com about how to get a job in the tech industry.