Career Management, Career Transition, Job Search

Internal Transfers: An Alternative to Jumping Ship That Could Jump Start Your Career

By Jennifer Coleman-

A common subject in Darden Alumni Career Services’ conversations with clients is internal transfers. It is common, and often a good idea, to consider a move within your company before jumping ship. But what are the risks?

How does one navigate the politics of such a move? For insights, I talked to an expert: Darden alumna Stephanie Bienert (MBA ’10), who is HR Director of Internal Recruitment at General Mills.

I’ll start by asking about one of our client’s most common concerns: How do you manage an internal transfer without jeopardizing your current role or relationship with your manager?

Start by clearly defining your career goals. What do you want to do? What types of jobs can provide you with the right skills and experiences to ultimately help you get there?

It’s also very important to build the right relationship with your manager from the beginning. Partner with them to build a development plan that aligns with your career goals. Then make sure to keep talking about it. If you’re unhappy in your current role or ready to start thinking about something new, have a conversation with your manager before you start looking for a new job, using your development plan to guide your conversation.

Finally, stay committed to your current job and keep delivering results. Performance is your currency for future opportunities.

What if you are underperforming — whether it’s the perception of your manager because you don’t have a good relationship, or maybe you’re underperforming because you’re generally uninspired and you want to be doing something different? Is a transfer still possible?

I think it is still possible. It’s definitely more challenging to look for another job when you’re underperforming, regardless the reason. So you need to start with some self-reflection: Do you understand why you’re not meeting expectations? Is it truly a poor job fit? Are you in a stretch assignment that is providing great development but also challenging your ability to deliver results? Is it personal conflict, or a poor manager?

Once you understand why, leverage the relationships you have within the organization. Can they share feedback on your strengths and development areas? Can they play a role in your job search? If the issue or struggle persists, it’s OK to build it into your personal narrative. If you’re officially not performing well, the hiring manager will likely find out during the screening and selection process, so it’s often better to proactively address it and own the message yourself.

What happens if you apply and you get turned down? What are the ramifications?

Getting turned down for a job is not a career ending experience. It truly is an opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t let it define you. Embrace a growth mindset, take a step back and ask, “What can I actually learn from this experience?” Was it the right type of job for you? Are you missing a key skill or experience to be competitive for this type of job? Could you have prepared more or differently for your interview process?

Many Darden graduates go into rotational programs in large organizations. Often, when they come out of the program, it’s on them to find the first official home. Any tips for this?

Be intentional with your time in the program. Take the opportunity to learn about the different parts of the organization, the types of roles that exist, the leaders and managers that invest in talent, and start to shape your opinion on the top areas that would be best for your development. Try to hold yourself to your unique needs and personal career goals instead of getting distracted by jobs that your peers want or something that sounds exciting. What’s right for somebody else is not necessarily what’s right for you. Sometimes the best jobs are the ones that no one wants. If you can make an impact where no one else has been able to or no one wants to, then you may be able to carve out a super differential and developmental experience for yourself.