Successfully Changing Jobs Internally

Crucial tips for avoiding nasty surprises

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When transferring jobs internally within an organization, many employees fail to adequately prepare for their own transition period and can face unpleasant (but avoidable) surprises as a result.

Beyond the structured downtime that an employee may experience between teams, other key considerations for a smooth internal transfer should include research on the management style of one's new boss and the size, attitude, and niche culture of the new team.

Many of these same considerations hold true for employees who remain stationary on a given team or project for many years, but watch their colleagues, chain of command, and/or specific job duties change.

Managing Internal Transitions

If you're unprepared going into an internal transition, it's more likely you'll end up doing two jobs for an extended period of time, and answering to more stakeholders and managers than normal. When you're expected to juggle dual responsibilities for a time, it's advisable to get both your former and new supervisors in the same room for a meeting in which the exact details of this transition and their respective expectations for you are fully and clearly defined. Preferably, all these details should be documented for the company, including a joint memorandum agreed upon by each supervisor.

Preparing for Future Contingencies

Another consideration is the possibility that your former department may face some future crisis in which your expertise is helpful. If the company can count on you to be an accessible expert when challenges come up, no matter which department you're serving in, they'll rely upon and appreciate you in new ways. It's vital that ground rules be set between your managers regarding how much of your time can be expected and to what extent you can put your new duties on hold.

Understanding Your New Manager and Department

Especially within larger firms, different departments tend to build their own expectations and internal cultures for team members, and managers are often allowed to develop their own unique leadership strategies. Before making any internal move, study the new group's culture and get to know the manager as well as you can before deciding if this transition will be a good fit. Additionally, realize that a reorganization or a change of manager can dramatically alter the rules and conditions under which you work. It's easy to fail to appreciate the individuality and variation between teams, and it's a mistake to assume that any two teams will be the same.


It's important that you anticipate your future within the company and maintain good relations with your old colleagues and managers. This simple networking consideration will demonstrate both foresight and gratitude and will help you stay closer to the team that helped refine your knowledge. The time may come that you or someone within your new team needs the assistance of your old colleagues, and your sustained relationship will be beneficial to the execution of your new duties, and in making your next career move. Keep in mind that a future reorganization may also require you to go back to work with the same group of people under new circumstances or leadership.

Source: "New Job, Same Firm: Learning the Ropes," The Wall Street Journal, 12/1/2009.