Last Updated May 2, 2007 7:27 PM EDT
If you like the company you are with but feel bored with your job and in need of a new challenge, you might want to consider applying for an internal vacancy. Internal job moves are generally considered easier to achieve than external ones. This is because the most convenient way for an employer to fill a vacancy is by hiring an existing employee with a proven track record inside the business. From your point of view as an employee, internal vacancies are probably attractive if you feel comfortable with your current organization and want to broaden your understanding of how the business works. You may be looking for a temporary transfer to another part of the business before returning to your own job, or you could be considering a long-term career move.
Before you rush into looking for vacancies, it's important to think about what you really want from your career and from your next step. Your long-term goals and short-term objectives—not just what is available—should drive your career path. Remember that there are a lot of jobs on the "hidden" market, which are never advertised. The people who end up getting these positions know how to seek out the right opportunity and to be in the right place at the right time.
Prepare for an internal job hunt as you would for any other by working out what you have to offer other parts of the business in terms of competence, confidence, character, and motivation.
Your employer may have a web site, an intranet, a newsletter, or a staff bulletin board, all of which could advertise current vacancies, so check these out regularly. In some organizations the policy is to offer vacancies internally before opening them to others, but in other cases all positions may be advertised externally from the beginning. Your human resources contact should be able to tell you where your employer advertises, both internally and externally, for the kind of job you are seeking.
Don't give up if you don't see anything that appeals to you immediately. Make an appointment to see someone in human resources, as well as your department managers. This way you can let them know that you're considering a move, what type of position you're looking for, and the strengths that you feel you have to offer other parts of the business. If you think your boss would support your move, he or she can help you to seek out opportunities and provide support for your advancement within the organization.
A consistent long-term positioning effort is the most effective way to assure yourself of promotion, whether now or in the future. If your company has a reasonably formal work culture, always dress for the job that you want, rather than the job that you have. This helps people to visualize you in a more senior role, and it creates a good impression with any senior managers and directors you come into contact with.
The higher you rise up the ladder, the more you will need to show your ability to communicate with people across the business and at all levels. Think about ways that you can achieve this within the normal boundaries of your job, and then think beyond this to other circumstances. What can you do that would be useful experience for the future? For example, are there any tasks that your boss would be willing to delegate to you that will allow you to develop your skills and become an important part of the organization?
Without losing the ability to have fun at work, you need to take your role and your future seriously. If your company values the development of its staff and offers encouragement in that area, ask for a mentor. This will communicate that you are thinking about your long-term future within the business, and that you're working on your skills and experience for tomorrow. It will also help boost your confidence when it comes to communicating with more senior colleagues. Find out as much as you can about the strategic direction of your department and the company as a whole. It is much easier to align what you and your team are doing if you are clear about higher level objectives and goals.
Also, don't be humble or boastful when asked about your achievements. Be clear about, and proud of, your successes and take well-deserved praise gracefully. Then say something like, "I think that experience can be really useful to me. How would you build on that if you were me?" This simple question gets the other person engaged in thinking about how to use your skills in the business, and often opens up new opportunities.
Not everyone is able to talk to his or her supervisor about ambitions, and in fact you may feel that your boss would be threatened by your plans. However, it's just as likely that they may support your bid to take over when they have left. If you think this is the case, try to get some clear feedback on the areas you need to work on in order to be seen as a credible successor. Your boss may also be ready to do some groundwork on your behalf and bring up your name with the right people as plans take shape to fill the vacancy.
Most job listings will contain the following parts:
- duty statement outlining the main responsibilities, accountabilities, and tasks
- additional information, perhaps about what the department does or who the customers are
- selection criteria: what strengths and abilities an applicant will need to perform well
- salary guide: this is often negotiable
- selection process: the closing date for applications, how to apply, contact names, etc.
Notice what criteria are listed as being "essential" and those that are considered "ideal." For elements on the essential list, you will need to show that you meet the stated qualifications. If you don't have the exact requirements listed in this section, you'll need good alternative qualifications or experience to offer as evidence of your ability to do the job. The section that describes the ideal candidate gives other desirable characteristics that the employer feels would be a bonus. As a rule of thumb, if you believe there is an 80% match between what you have to offer and the position you are considering, then it's worth your while to apply for it.
If you are looking for an unadvertised job, you can use the same analysis. It is a little harder, since you won't have a job description in front of you and will have to procure the information yourself by asking questions. Even when you have an ad to start with, you can make a phone call to clarify or to get further information that will help you decide if the job is for you. In fact, this may make you more memorable, as long as you don't take up too much of a person's time or probe too deeply. Prepare yourself the conversation so that you make a good impression. Make a list of the job requirements mentioned in the ad, as well as the evidence that you can meet each of them. You can add to the list or make notes while on the phone. Decide in advance what questions you will ask, remembering to keep them brief, and practice what you will say if asked for information about yourself.
Start by making a photocopy of the application form, so that you can work on the copy and make any changes there. Before you begin, read through the entire form and think about where to place information without repeating yourself. Also, remember to allow yourself plenty of time.
Read and follow the instructions. If you don't do this, the person reviewing your application may take a dim view of it, despite your qualifications. Answer every question accurately or at least write "not applicable" so that the recruiter knows that you haven't missed it by mistake. Be honest in what you say and remember that application forms and résumés are often checked to make sure that the information is true.
Be sure to proofread what you have written, and if you have time, go over it again after a day or two, to make sure you have presented yourself in the best light. It might also be worthwhile to show your application to someone else and get some feedback. When you are completely satisfied, copy the information onto the original form. Then photocopy the final version, as it may be a while before you have an interview and you will want to remind yourself of what you wrote. Make sure you return the application in plenty of time.
Always keep your résumé up-to-date, adding new achievements, skills, and qualifications as you go along. This way, you won't have to spend time restructuring it when you hear about a job that you're interested in. However, don't send your résumé without checking that it has the right tone of voice, and that it emphasizes the necessary skills and strengths for the job you are applying for. If you are interested in more than one type of position, it may be a good idea to have more than one résumé on hand, each emphasizing different experience and abilities.
Keep your résumé down to one or two pages. You need to give enough information to interest the recruiter, but you don't want to bore them with superfluous information. Also, there is no need to tell everything now. Less sometimes has a greater effect than more. The secret is getting the reader to think of questions that they would like to ask you. For example, you could talk about an achievement and the impact that it had on your department but hold back the information about how you did it, leaving this as a "hook."
Remember that you need to grab attention in the first half page, so don't waste this section listing your middle names, hobbies, and the organizations you belong to. These items can be left out or put at the end of the second page. Make the most important information readily accessible, and remove information that is not relevant to this application. An hour carefully tailoring your résumé can prove to be well spent.
Whether you send a hard copy of your résumé and application or use e-mail, a brief cover letter should go with every application you make, highlighting how you can meet the employer's requirements or solve their problems. The format should be the same as a formal business letter, and should fit easily on one page. If you know the person in your organization that you are writing to, the tone should reflect that fact, but remember that the letter may be shown to others—be friendly but professional. Using short, simple sentences to get across your message, write:
- an opening paragraph that immediately shows your relevance and makes a connection between you and the position you want
- the highlights of your relevant strengths or achievements
- a strong concluding paragraph that asks for a meeting to discuss the position further
Once a job opening has been posted, recruiters are often inundated with replies and need to quickly screen out those they don't consider to be viable job candidates. One criteria that they may use is motivation. Because good candidates are most likely to be sincerely interested and excited about their role, they should be motivated to follow up their application with a phone call. Recruiters will sometimes sift through and keep the most promising applications on their desk and wait to see which applicants call. Those that call are invited to interview.
A follow-up call is best done about a week after you send the application. Start by asking the contact if they received your application, and then politely inquire when you can expect to hear about an interview. You can close by saying you are interested in the position and hope to have the chance to discuss it further. Keep the call short, unless you are invited to say more about yourself.
Don't put your life on hold; even if you are quite certain you'll be offered the job you want. If your current position is not right for you, keep looking and inquiring until you have a definite offer. If you look elsewhere you may find similar positions in other organizations that are just as good if not better than what is available in your own company.
Remember that most job postings will describe a position in the most favorable light possible. This is why it's important to identify the issues: what would you like more of in a new position and what would you like to avoid? What elements do you expect to be different in another part of the organization? Once you have decided what is most important to you, talk to people in the relevant department to see if your expectations match the reality of the situation.