In my (so far) short lifespan, one of the big definitions of “moving jobs” has been literally moving companies. Except in my last company, where that paradigm shifted to mean “moving roles”. Understanding how this works has helped me in my new role, new company and new job.
Some background: This post comes from my thought process as I approach the one-year mark where I’ve worked in my current company. I love it here, and plan to stay for many years to build a career I can be proud of. But in there, I want to be able to build products, people and stuff that I can be proud of. Perhaps for the first time ever I’m more than happy to tell people where I work and what I do. That one year mark means that the conversation about medium-to-long-term career paths have arisen — and that conversation is starting to get serious.
The types of job movement
To define the different ways to move job, the shifts, ebbs & flows of internal reorganisation versus the movement from one company to another are important. They help define the motivation behind that movement. This is the way I see them…
Lateral: Lateral movement is often seen as a small shift, but I don’t think so. Lateral movement inside an organisation is huge for someone’s headspace, skillset and even for those around them. Ideally lateral movement isn’t necessarily negative (as in, “we need him/her out of our team”). The impact of moving from one team to another affects everyone in both teams, but also affects you as an employee. Suddenly you’re out of your comfort zone. From a management perspective, this is the perfect way to put someone to the test.
Vertical: I think most people assume vertical professional movement is positive. It mostly is. Vertical movement often means more money, new benefits, maybe even a new office. And most of the time, that’s true. Sometimes it’s not. A lot of vertical movement in businesses is a sign of tenure, not skill. Businesses often need to identify leaders, not managers. And businesses are mostly awful at doing this. Get vertical movement right, and you’ll have nailed most of the path that will define your career.
You can also be “sacked vertically”. Instead of being fired outright, you get dumped out of your current role and put into another one. You see this a lot with sales people who are top notch at their job and reach some sort of tier where they have to become managers. I call this being sacked vertically. I guess you could also be sacked vertically downward, too…
LatVer: LatVer is the combination of both of the above. You can move to a different team/department/etc. while also receiving some sort of promotion. This is, in effect, what I’m attempting to produce right now where I work. Moving to a different team, but it’ll also involve a vertical move into that team. This means leveraging skillsets, getting into a new role as well as demonstrating leadership.
Sacked: This is definitely a huge career move. Potentially the biggest career move you can have, because most of the time being sacked had nothing to do with you. Whether it’s your own incompetence (which you should be able to learn from & pull lessons for the future with) or the business being shut down/downsized/acquired, etc., this kind of movement is shocking to everyone.
Acquired: A lot of startup culture surrounds the fun cool surroundings of beer fridges and standing desks. But one big part of working for a small startup is the risk of acquisition. This could involve any kind of movement internally. If your company is the acquisitee, then you could end up working for folks you dislike, in a new cultural surrounding and maybe working on new ideas/projects/products with a new Workflow. Or, ideally, you get to work with smarter people than you whom you can learn from. If you’re the acquisitor, then you could easily end up taking on extra responsibility.
Quit: Quitting is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to your career. Just quit if you hate it. In the time normally spent working with people you dislike on a project you don’t believe in, the business could have had someone who loves it and you could be learning a new language, skill or just simply working somewhere else.
One big part of movement in business is the personal achievement involved. Not just moving around and all of that, but also actually pushing yourself into teams, into the minds of managers, and becoming the obvious choice for a job were it to come up.
Talking to people from different teams is often daunting for folks, which prohibits a lot of lateral or latver movement. Getting over that fear is easy when technology comes into play. Send an email, use the chat system, grab a coffee with someone after a while. Communication is key to moving internally, and if you can’t open the door by conversing with someone (often not about business), then you’re not helping yourself. The way to do this is demonstrate your personality. If people don’t like that, you’ll never get into that dream job you’re eyeing up.
At some point talking to members of a team you want to move into will get your name mentioned in a meeting with a manager, director or VP. At some point you’re going to meet said manager, director or VP, and they’ll ask around about you in your current team. That’s when you shine. You didn’t say anything. Instead, your colleagues sell the dream for you. Which is the perfect storm.
Of course, that’s not always going to happen. But if moving into a new team is important for your career, the first thing to do is identify if that role exists, or will exist. If it doesn’t/won’t, make it so. Convince someone it’s worth having that team around and then go from there. At some point, you have to put yourself so deep into the conversation that you would be the only logical option for the job. You want them to come to you — not the other way ‘round.
If you move in a business, or even move to another business then you really need to excel at that role. Movement means you’re liable very early on because your expertise and experience from the past matters. My years’ tenure in my current role makes me more experienced than a lot of folks in this company (because it’s young, cool and startupy). In my current team I’m the leader and the king of the hill. In another team? I’m just starting. But it’s my job to bring that experience to the role and make sure everything runs smoothly from day 1. Learning is part of that — asking questions is part of it — but not fucking it up is huge.