David was ready to find a new job. He was stuck. Frustrated. Borderline angry.
A smart, successful marketing pro with a growing young family, he told me about the battle in his brain every morning. The conversation as he dressed each day went something like this (note: expletives deleted):
Okay, here we go again. Suck it up, dude. It’s just work, after all. You’re smart enough to suffer the fools and the annoyances. But what a freakin’ waste, right? I KNOW I’m better than this — it’s my f#%&xg LIFE we’re talking about here. But I guess it could suck worse. . . I could be unemployed or not be able to pay the mortgage. Man, if I had any guts, I’d look for a new job. . . but that’d take too much time and energy . . . plus I don’t know where to start . . . maybe I’m not good enough to get hired anywhere else . . . and let’s face it, I’m having all I can do to stay sane right now. . . guess I just have to toughen up . . .damn, I think we’re out of Cheerios again. . .
So David stayed unhappy. Stuck. Frustrated. And got even angrier . . . mostly at himself.
But David was forgetting a massively important point.
What if David didn’t have to change everything in his life to change his life at work? What if the work experience he wanted could actually exist in the company where he already worked?
It can, and it did. Here’s his story, along with tips and ideas you can use to find a new job and change your own experience at work. (Psst: I teach these techniques and more in my online class, “Should I Stay or Go? How to Make the Best Decision of Your Career.” Learn more here and get started today. )
How to Find a New Job in Your Current Company
Like many people, David assumed there were a only handful of ways to change your job in your own company:
- The Wand Wave. Someone from on high notices our good work, waves a magic wand, and appoints us to the job of our dreams.
- The Beauty Pageant. An opportunity arises (usually due to a retirement, departure or promotion), and existing employees throw their hats in the ring for consideration, answering questions from the judges and showing off their unique talents.( Swimsuit competition thankfully optional.)
- The Eventual Step: A move forward on the traditional ladder, usually awarded at annual review time and typically overdue. With more qualified people than steps on that ladder, often a very slow way to move.
Don’t get me wrong—these things DO still happen. (Congrats to my client Monica who just got the Wand Wave.) But the one thing all of these processes have in common is that they’re in someone else’s control. They assume you have to wait to be picked.
But when you’re ready for change, why wait?
How? Here are four tips I gave David.
1. Go toward a target. Don’t run from an arrow.
Instead, focus on uncovering the place where your skills and talents can be better used.
Look around your company, and ask these questions:
- Who’s doing things that fascinate you?
- Which groups are growing?
- Which products or services are getting good “buzz”? Alternatively, which need more support, help, or attention to succeed?
- What leaders or teams are getting good press, inside and outside?
- If you were looking at this organization from the outside, what parts of it look successful or intriguing to you? (If your frustration fogs your perspective, ask this question of a few trusted friends.)
Humans have a bias that what we experience is the experience everywhere. These questions can help you recognize that elsewhere in your company, good things are likely happening and great work experiences can exist.
Having a few targets leads you to the second tip.
2. Network while you work.
Just say the word “networking” and watch people shiver. It evokes images of glad-handing, card-swapping, small-talk making, sweat-inducing meetings and events that most of us avoid.
I am not a tuna; I do not want to get caught in your “net.” But what I do want—and what David wants, and what I’m guessing you want—is to build relationships. And that’s all networking is, so stop being intimidated by it.
Too often in our own companies we don’t focus on our relationships with those we know and with new people who are doing things we want to learn. But now that you have some target areas from your questions earlier, you can take actions to connect, listen, and build relationships that matter.
Start by adapting these phrases:
- “I’ve been watching the work you’re doing in XYZ department, and as I think about what’s next for me, I’d love to learn more about what’s happening there and how you do what you do. Could I meet you in the cafeteria for lunch sometime in the next week or so?”
- “I saw the article on our intranet about the client surge in your department–congrats! I’m interested in how your part of the business is growing, and wondered if you’d be free for a 15-minute call sometime soon so I can learn from your experiences?”
- “We haven’t met yet, but I’ve been reading your articles in our trade magazine/industry blog, and am interested to connect and get more of your perspective on how we’re doing [something specific in your organization you care about that they do] here at our company. What would be the best way for us to connect?”
Most people will be flattered that you’re paying attention and want to know more about their work, their department, their successes, and their challenges. And remember, “no” or “not now” is an acceptable answer, so just move on and ask someone else.
Each conversation helps create a new relationship, which helps you understand what’s really happening in your company—and gives you insight for the next step.
Your targeted relationships can show you where the real problems are in your company. Where’s the pain of failure, of missed opportunity, of process, of productivity, etc.?
Finding and following the pain will show you areas that are prime for creative thinking about how someone like you may be able to help. Pain—or more specifically, pain relief or avoidance—is a huge motivator toward action.
Remember that any job is simply a set of problems that need solutions. So if you see the problems, and you have the solutions, it’s time for you to move to the next step.
4. Pitch an idea.
I’ll be honest. This is the step where people freeze up.
They assume that if the pain they’ve observed is real, then the organization itself will create a solution for it. Someone will wave the wand, hold the beauty pageant, or place someone in the eventual next step.
But organizations are made up of humans. And humans, doncha know, are imperfect. Busy. Overwhelmed.
And just as we recognize the pain and imperfections in our own lives, decision-makers in organizations often see the pain, but if a solution isn’t simple or straightforward, they ignore it or postpone dealing with it.
What if your idea, suggestion, opportunity was the simplest, fastest answer to relieve the pain? If you were a leader, wouldn’t you say “yes?”
This is what David did. Through his targeting and networking, he found pain in a newly-expanded division of his company that grew too fast for the talent they had. The division had struggled to hire from the outside and its new hires had long start-up times to learn internal systems and processes. He’d been thinking that if that division needed talent like him, they’d come looking (aka, “wave the wand”) but leaders were so focused on getting through each day that no one had time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of available talent.
Plus, no one had any idea David was “available,” because from an outsider’s view, he was successful and content right where he was.
After connecting with several people inside the department, David made his pitch (here’s the gist):
“I hear your struggle, and I have an idea for you. With my depth of experience in exactly the areas you need to grow, plus with my knowledge across the rest of the organizations’ systems, it’d be a great fit for me and you to have me in a senior marketing management role, responsible for x, y, and z. It’d solve problem a, b, and c. What do you think? What do we need to do together to make that happen?”
The pitch generated an invigorating conversation with the division president, David’s current boss, and their HR leader. It resulted in David writing his own job description for a role that got him away from the things he hated about his current job and closer to work that was exciting and new for him.
The Moral of David’s Story to Find a New Job
I hate to think about what would have happened if David waited.
The stress to his health, and his family. The opportunities missed. The days, months, years wasted.
What about you? If it’s time to find a new job, what’s the change that might be available right where you are now? Don’t be fooled in thinking that David was unique. Opportunities emerge spontaneously all the time, based on the unique gifts and ideas of the people already in the organization. So why not you?
Why not now?