How to Move Internally - Laterally and Vertically
Making a career change does not necessarily entail having to switch firms – an internal move can be just as rewarding as an external one. An internal uplift or transfer can help you achieve your career goals without the hassle of having to secure a new position in a different firm, which can prove time-consuming and emotionally demanding. For women, moving firms can be stressful as it occasionally necessitates having to relocate or adapting to a new schedule – which can prove challenging in terms of work-life balance. If you are content at your current firm but wish to either enhance your skill base or simply stay motivated, an internal move might be the solution.
Every company will have a different attitude and system concerning internal uplifts or transfers, so it is advised that you make yourself aware of the process before approaching a current employer with your desire to move internally. However, typically firms will endeavour to retain talent and will often be flexible when confronted with a good employee’s request to move. Making an internal move requires research, time, and dedication. The following will explore how to successfully make an internal move, both laterally and vertically, and discuss how to make your career work for you.
How to Make an Internal Lateral Move
Lateral moves can be particularly challenging, as they often require you to develop an entirely different skill base and demonstrate your interest in another area without compromising your success in a current role. Joy Rhoades, an ex-Managing Director at renowned financial services firm JPMorgan, advises that lateral moves can be ‘difficult, but not impossible’.
According to Rhoades, the key is to start by ‘doing a great job’ and ‘having a good relationship with your manager’. Rhoades adds that a good manager will be talking to you about your next steps during a performance review and will consider your current skill gaps and how to plug them. During a performance review is the ideal time to express your interest in another area, by stating for example ‘look, I’m actually passionate about finance’ or ‘I’m interested in ESG’. This will hopefully instigate a conversation with your manager about a potential lateral move and what you need to do to make it work. However, if you are doing particularly well in a current role your employer may be reluctant to let you go into another department. As Rhoades explains, ‘be aware that sometimes there is inertia because you’re doing a good job’.
When looking to make a lateral move, it is important to ‘manifest that passion’. Thoroughly explore this other area of interest by taking classes at night – such as an MBA or MSc – and getting involved with initiatives in the department you desire to join. This will demonstrate to your current employer that you are serious about making a lateral move and dedicated to making it a reality.
Equally, if you desire to work within another sector, you should build a cross-departmental network. Establishing a solid network is vital to knowledgeably figuring out your career options and tapping into opportunities as they are forming. The best way to find an internal job is to help yourself find it first. A firm will typically have an internal transfer application system for upcoming roles but working your network and gaining visibility will be crucial to successfully moving internally.
According to Rhoades, the key is to ‘manifest that passion over time’ – either by volunteering in some way or attending sessions regarding that area of interest. That way, you are demonstrating ‘over time that you’re not only interested in that area’ but are developing an ‘aptitude for it’. Rhoades concludes by stating a ‘combination of long-term interest and aptitude should eventually manifest – at a good firm – in a move’.
The Benefits of Making an Internal Lateral Move
A lateral move is a good way to reinvent yourself and demonstrate your adaptability. It allows you to gain exposure to a different area of business and presents the opportunity to fill in professional development gaps
Making a career change is much easier internally, as you will have a proven track record of success in your current role and can showcase your passion in another area
The Negatives of Making an Internal Lateral Move
Any form of change always entails an element of risk and lateral compensation might not cover that.
You may experience a loss of status because you probably will not be able to go in at the same level or have the same title - this will have a financial impact too.
Whether a lateral move makes sense for you depends on your career goals, opportunities available to you and timing - a lateral move can either enhance or detract from your career path.
A Vertical Move
In the case of a vertical move or internal uplift, you will need to demonstrate that you are able to take on more responsibility in the firm by developing and showcasing your leadership skills. How to gain an uplift, raise or promotion was previously addressed in the section When Should you Bring up a Salary Discussion, so will only be briefly addressed here.
Like a lateral move, you will need to demonstrate to your employer that you are succeeding in your current role before addressing the prospect of a promotion. Building a case for a future uplift will be vital, including seeking assignments that fill professional skill gaps and demonstrating your ability to lead a team or pull-off an ambitious project.
Typically, firms will have an established promotion process that you will need to follow. Organisations will often publish specific criteria for a promotion, so identify the formal criteria needed and establish when the decisions are going to be made and by whom. This will help you build your case for an internal promotion successfully and fill out the necessary paperwork in a timely manner.
However, gaining a promotion is not simply a box-ticking exercise. It is vital that you also make your interest known and increase your visibility at the firm. Make your manager or employer aware early on that you are seeking to advance your career and be proactive about identifying opportunities to showcase desired skills. Again, during a performance review is the optimal time to make your manager aware of your ambitions and initiate a discussion about the process. It is important to be honest with your current manager concerning your desire for a promotion. However, in some cases, it may be more suitable to reach out to HR initially and disclose your interest in an uplift at the right time.
Importantly, building a network and establishing mentees or sponsors within a firm will be key to securing a promotion. For women, especially women of colour, having senior sponsorship is essential to move up the corporate ladder swiftly. One main reason a network of advocates and supporters is so important is that they can create and alert women to opportunities and encourage them to take risks, such as trying out new business units, roles, locations and even industries to build a broad foundation of experience. Not only are entry level women less likely than men to have managers who act as their advocates and help them identify opportunities, they are less likely to receive advice on advancement or navigating organisational politics.
Finally, you should make sure you have a good understanding and knowledge about the firms’ operational activities. Having a strong awareness of a firm’s vision, strategy and challenges will be crucial to demonstrating your enthusiasm for making the company a success.
The Benefits of Making an Internal Vertical Move
Gaining an internal uplift allows you to retain your career credibility and maintain your network, moving firms means you will have to build new connections and rapport over time
An internal uplift gives you the opportunity to work your way up the career ladder without the associated risks of an external move and allows you to retain your fringe benefits.
The Negatives of Making an Internal Vertical Move
An internal uplift may not be as heavily compensated compared to an external move, so you will have to take that into account and consider the options available to you
Often external moves can be more valuable in terms of career progression and skill development - by staying in the same organisation too long you run the risk of becoming institutionalised.
Be aware that in both circumstances, an internal uplift or transfer, you will have to go through an interview process that might be just as rigorous as an external one. It is important to be prepared for this and not blindly assume that your hiring manager or employer will be aware of your achievements within the firm – sell yourself as you would do in an external interview. Further, do not presume you will have an edge over other candidates because you are known, although firms recognise that hiring internally is often faster and cheaper, hiring managers or employers may be looking for fresh skills or perspectives that they assume no-one in the organisation currently has.
Equally, make sure you have been with the firm a considerable length of time before approaching the subject of an internal transfer or uplift – the desire to move quickly may make you appear indecisive or greedy. Many firms have a policy in place that prevents junior talent moving until they have proven track record and a solid tenure, and it can be difficult to break this mould.
Want more information and tips on moving up the corporate ladder - and getting the right compensation along the way? Then make sure to look at our other resources on the topic:
The Rutherford x HerCapital Mentorship Initiative
In March 2021, Rutherford officially launched in partnership with HerCapital an initiative to create safe spaces where women in senior roles within financial services could coach and mentor ambitious women in mid-level functions who are looking to move up the corporate ladder and invest in their career. Find out more about the initiative here.
HerCapital was founded in 2019 with the mission to empower women to become financially independent and to take control of their income. The two founders, Zabreen Khan and Rabiya Ather, aim to create a strong community of women who are looking to become confident investors and to be equipped with tools who will help them be part of the conversation when it comes to investing and managing personal finances.
This initiative with Rutherford is enabling the non-profit organisation to expand its current horizons, by providing safe spaces for their community to discuss career goals and progression with well-established women in senior positions. This will help empower women to also take control of their career and future.
If you wish to know more about the initiative or get in touch with Rutherford to be part of the next session, please contact Genevieve Higgins-Desbiens, Head of Marketing & Talent Acquisition at Rutherford.