A colleague came to me the other day frustrated by a conversation she had just had with the manager of another team. You know the type of conversation I'm talking about - the one that isn't a conversation but really a mini-interview to see if you are an interesting proposition. She was trying to undertake a career pivot with the support of her sponsor who had arranged the meeting. Everything was in place beforehand; a supportive sponsor, a cracking CV and a clear view of what she would ideally like to do in this new team. After chatting for 30 minutes the meeting ended and my colleague came to find me, "I bombed, completely and utterly".
Digging into the conversation two things became clear;
1. She had failed to coherently explain what she is good at using clear examples from her current role. I know this sounds like a basic step but in the heat of the moment she had over focused on getting across her transferable skills rather than communicating her value. She had used words such as 'sustainable engagement' and 'collaboration' but had not provided a clear explanation of what that looked like in practice and why that would be relevant to the new team.
2. She failed to understand the interviewers buckets. When someone is interviewing you then generally a job description guides the process. In the case of an informal conversation there may be no specific written guide and interviewers are generally trying to place you into one of several potential skills buckets available within the team, for example project manager, analyst, software engineer, etc...My friend needed a role to be created in order to move into this team, the hardest type of career pivot. Instead of investigating beforehand the types of buckets available in that team she focused on her key strengths and used language that wasn't specific enough to help guide the interviewer towards a particular bucket.
She had poorly communicated her value to the new team.
Reflecting on the situation a few days later the two of us came up with a new plan for future conversations. While she had identified where a future 'dream' role could sit within the organisation and relied on her sponsor to get her time with right team manager she had not spent time with her sponsor understanding the main skill set of the existing team and how she could fit into that role. So here's our main takeaways of how to undertake a successful internal career pivot;
Make sure you are leave to something not away from something. This means leave a team for a specific new role not just because you dislike working within your existing team. At any interview focus on what you are moving towards rather than the issues that exist in your current team.
Use all resources available to you - Make an effort to get to know the other team. This should ideally involve you using your internal support networks to meet people informally who work in that team and then drill down into the team strengths and weaknesses with your sponsor. Finally don't forget to do your own investigations to understanding the outputs of the team and be ready to communicate what draws you specifically to that team.
Know your value and communicate it with clear relevant examples - Spend time understanding your unique selling point, your specific combination of skills. Then determine at least two recent examples of how you used that skill - one more general and one very specific to the work of the new team, ideally guiding the interviewer to a specific bucket you would like to be fitted into. I have undertaken this in the past and even managed to create a whole new bucket by being so clear on my potential value and having done my homework in terms of identifying a missing role within that team.
Try, try and try again - If at first you don't succeed then you have two options; try again or move on to look for a new career pivot. The former can be hard but also shows the team how much you want to work for them.
Undertaking a career pivot is tricky but is definitely a worthwhile alternative to leaving an organisation. I've personally undertaken four career pivots within my current organisation and each time they've set me onto a new s-curve which has kept me with my organisation for the past 13 years.
All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.