You landed the job you’ve worked so hard to secure. After all the networking, interviews, and salary negotiations, you’re a month in - and you hate it. The company has everything you hoped for - smart colleagues, interesting challenges, thoughtful, diverse leaders - but the role you’re in stinks. What do you do next?
I’ve got you. This is precisely what happened to me my first job out of college. It took me about six weeks to realize how much I hated the role. The first few weeks were a whirlwind of onboarding, meeting new colleagues, and the rush of a new job in an amazing city. Then, after everything settled down, I realized the daily responsibilities of the job weren’t energizing and excluded some of the things I loved most. Here’s what you should do when faced with this dilemma.
First - check the culture. Understand the culture around internal movement from colleagues. There can be both written policies and unwritten norms to explore. Since you’re a new employee, you can do so by accurately explaining you’re interested in understanding long-term career prospects. You’ll want to understand:
Formal policies - some companies restrict new hires from moving into a new role for a certain amount of time
Unwritten norms - what’s commonly accepted for a new employee, what career paths have successful colleagues forged as they moved teams
Your manager and leadership team - reflect on the discussions they have had with you, and how they’ve reacted to colleagues that moved roles - if they’ve encouraged career development, you likely have a manager more open to supporting your shift
Second - determine how to engage your manager. If your manager is a strong developer of talent, they will want you to find the absolute best position within the company. She will have signaled this by discussing long-term career ambitions with you and by offering (and asking for) feedback. In this case, I recommend candidly discussing your ambitions without denigrating your current role.
You can approach this by saying, “Taylor, I have enjoyed my first several weeks here tremendously. In our next one-on-one, I’d like to get your advice on how to further grow my career here and contribute even more.” Giving your boss a heads-up ensures they aren’t blindsided.
You’ll want to carefully balance your primary responsibility - which is success in the current role - and your future ambitions. You might say, “Taylor, in the first few weeks here I’ve learned a tremendous amount. Contributing on the Alpha Report was a big challenge and it was fantastic to see it so well received by our clients. I still have a lot to learn, however I’m beginning to see that, in this role, my love for creativity and design aren’t being leveraged. Would you be open to a longer-term career planning discussion?”
This diplomatic approach recognizes that you are still new, and frames the discussion around your career goals, not the position itself. You’re reminding your boss of the successes you’ve had in the short term you’ve been in seat, and labeling the things you aren’t getting out of this position.
In this discussion, you’re looking for how your manager reacts. Is she engaging you to start thinking about your career, does she welcome a longer-term discussion, does she start thinking creatively about how to give you some exposure to the things you find lacking? Those are good signals, indicating you have a manager who is likely to help in your transition. If she appears frustrated or annoyed, you might need to be more delicate.
If your manager is only focused on keeping you in the current role, and appears disinterested, then you’ll want to engage others across the company in career-coaching discussions. Learning and development teams, HR business partners, employee networks, and fellow college alumni that work at the company can help you navigate the business.
That said, you should assume that everything you share in those discussions goes back to your direct manager. I’m not saying it will - but you should approach each meeting with a positive, thoughtful approach that is anchored on your long-term contribution to the success of the business you’re a part of.
Third - explore where you want to go. This component is particularly important - you don’t want a reputation as an unreliable employee who can’t stick to their commitments. Therefore, the next position you move to should be one where you want to invest time and effort.
Now that you’re inside the company, you’re able to see the reality in much more detail than you could when you were interviewing. As you build your company network, I suggest three things:
Always bring something of value to each networking discussion. This doesn’t need to be huge; it could be as simple as doing a quick search on the person you are meeting, seeing they follow Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on LinkedIn, and sharing a recent article that featured Sandberg’s views.
Focus on skills, not just roles. As a new employee, you’re just learning the company. Don’t make assumptions about what function is best for you. Instead, focus on the three to five skills you’d like to develop or utilize more. Your colleagues may make interesting connections - like pointing you to a team that is just forming, but will need the skills you mentioned - that you wouldn’t have been able to yourself.
Ask your colleagues for connections. As you build your network, ask your colleagues who they recommend you meet. This is an excellent way to close the discussion and continue growing your connections.
Understand the internal application process. Learn precisely how the process works for employees who move internally. Most businesses require a very similar process for internal hires as they do external - resume submission, formal interviews, and even cover letters.
Fourth - set yourself up and make the move. In my experience, two things contribute disproportionately to making a move within your current company. The first is critical - you need to be effective at your current position. Even if you dislike it, you’ve got to nail it by meeting deadlines, delivering quality work, and ensuring you’re performing well by asking your manager and peers for feedback. If you don’t have a strong reputation in your current position, it will be challenging to get the next job.
Additionally, I recommend being appropriately transparent with your management team about your long-term ambitions. This is far easier if your manager is supportive of you. But - you never want your manager to be surprised that you are applying for a role internally. Many HR departments make a first call to the employee’s current manager before setting up an internal interview. This often allows HR to capture feedback on your performance and ensures the manager isn’t surprised. You want your manager to hear about your interest in a new role from you, not HR.
If you love your company, but hate your role, you can navigate into a new position. The talent in today’s market remains scarce, and competitive businesses recognize that it’s better to keep an employee by moving them into a new role than having them resign.
I’ll share my experience - after six months in the role I disliked, I landed an internal position in a new department that stretched my skills in exciting, interesting ways. My new role had many things my first position lacked, including more focused client engagement and deeper analytics.
Interestingly, some of the skills I built in the role I disliked (particularly an intensive attention to detail and the ability to write research reports extremely quickly) serve me well in my career to this day. I wish you the best of luck as you land the role you deserve in the company of your dreams.