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How to change jobs… and how not to

While flying home to Dublin from Redmond I was doing a little blog reading (hooray for SAS and airborne broadband) when I came across an interesting post on Dare’s blog regarding the Microsoft policy of needing permission from your manager before you can interview or a different position within MS.  It’s a policy that leads to a certain amount of discomfort for any employ who wants to change jobs.  Going to your manager for permission is tough, but here’s a promise I’ve made to myself which helps me (and works if I’m at Microsoft or not):

I’ve promised myself I won’t ever leave my current role – I will always go to a new role.

Here’s the big issue for me: when I’m fed up with work, my boss, my hours or whatever, any job will look good to me.  As soon as I’m in flight mode, trying to run away from my current position I am super-likely to be simply abandoning the frying pan.  There are always times at work where I’ll be pissed at my boss, annoyed at my coworkers and/or think the product has no chance of succeeding.  When I get to that point I always take a deep breath and try to figure out if a) it’s something I can correct and b) if it’s something I think will last.  It sounds pretty silly advice,  but don’t ever leave a job you hate.

So, what should someone do if they hate their job?  In the ideal world one will have picked a cool group at a cool company working on a cool product.  Chances are there’s something you like about your job, find it and focus on it.  You also have to decide you’re not going to adopt a victim mentality (it’s your bosses fault… your coworkers stole the credit… it will ship if test would find the bugs).  Don’t ever think that you can’t make your situation better because that will sink the ship fast.  Figure out what is broken and what part of it you can fix.  Once everything is sunshine and roses you can move on (sure, I’m an idiot… but I’m an optimist).

I am totally comfortable at any point in time going to my boss and saying “Hey, I came across this internal job listing and it totally sounds like something I’d really like to do.  Things are going great here but I’d really like the opportunity to go do this cool thing.  May I please?”  I may actually be happy in my current role or I may not… but if I actually honor my promise to myself I’m actually highly likely to be in a role I enjoy before I leave for one I’m going to enjoy even more.

So, what does this have to do with the Internal hiring policies?  Here’s the thing: I feel if my manager thinks I am a good employee and honestly excited about going to a new role they will be disappointed to see me go but genuinely interested in helping me succeed.  If I get the job I wanted my manager will be happy because they know I’m going to an exciting opportunity.  If I don’t get the job my manager will be happy because they don’t loose me.


Afterword
I’ve been at Microsoft for almost ten years and been a manager on and off for roughly half that time.  I’ve applied for internal positions and moved groups.  I’ve also applied for jobs and not been hired.  I’ve had employees request permission and I’ve granted it every time.  Microsoft has policies about when a transfer can be blocked or delayed and are very reasonable.  Always if your manager blocks your move and you think it’s unreasonable you should talk to your HR rep as they can help you to work through it.

4 replies on “How to change jobs… and how not to”

All the stuff you’ve written assumes you have a good manager and/or are working in a healthy team. When neither of these is the case, the "permission to interview" idea is actually counterproductive. It seems Lisa Brummel has gotten enough feedback about why this was a ridiculously bad idea and now it’s gone.

Hey Reeves. I work for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and we are encouraged to apply for internal positions. They don’t require us to ask permission but they do ask that we let them know that we have applied for another position.

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