In the first part of this blog, we identified self-assessment as the first step to pursuing a job in your organization. The fundamentals in this post will address understanding your organization and researching what others do, including how to reach out to others.
Know Your Company
How many of you understand what other people in your organization do? Yes, we know who our colleagues are and that somehow they contribute to the collective day-to-day operations, but what is it like to do their job and what skills do they use to fulfill their responsibilities? Often, you will discover that there are many more jobs than you realize.
Most mid- to large-size company organizational charts represent a wide range of occupations. This means that there might be internal opportunities for you if you hope to make a change based on what you know about your interests, values, and skills. For example, let’s say that you work in management for a corporation, but you aspire to do accounting work. You probably will not have to look long before you discover that there are colleagues who spend their days focused on business operations related to auditing, budgeting, or analyzing finances at your company.
Here are some ways to identify options for you:
- Review the organizational chart.
- Read your company website with the intention of understanding how each unit functions to create the whole of the organization.
- Talk with people who understand your organization from a big-picture perspective. You might find someone with an understanding about the kinds of positions your company hires for, possibly someone in HR, depending on your organization. You want colleagues who have some history with the organization, people whom you can learn from. Find out how other departments in your organization differ from your unit.
While you want to have an idea of what positions are available at your organization, you can also look at general occupational information based on what you know about yourself, followed by identifying where people do that kind of work within your organization
You can learn about what others do for their jobs in several ways. First, you can read some information. Penn State students have access to a wealth of career information, such as virtual career libraries, that can help you explore different occupations. Additionally, there are useful resources online, such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, ACT World-of-Work Map, America’s Career InfoNet, or O*NET, where you can relate your interests, goals, and motivations to various occupations. You might also want to talk with a career counselor to help synthesize your self-knowledge and relate this to occupations you want to explore.
In addition to reading about occupations, talk to people — because those who are doing the work you aspire to do are one of the best sources of career information. There are some guidelines and example questions to consider asking if you decide to talk with a colleague. Select people judiciously if you are not ready to let people at work know you are considering a change. If you are in a situation where you do not want people to know you are considering a change, you can always learn about occupations from people outside of your organization. But remember that there is some etiquette to keep in mind when speaking with someone about what she/he does. If you are struggling to find someone to talk to about occupations, LionLink is an excellent program that connects Penn State students with alumni volunteers for the purpose of networking.
Presenting yourself. As you move toward another position, it helps to talk about your broad skills versus current job duties. For instance, instead of saying you answer phones as an assistant, you want to talk about yourself as someone who communicates well with customers and who manages data. The broad skills underneath job tasks are called transferable skills (because the acquired abilities can be transferred to different circumstances). When you talk with the right people at work, you want to speak the language of transferable skills.
Reaching out. Once you can talk about the relevant competencies you have, you are then in a position to find people in your organization who can help you. This is someone whom you can contact periodically and who is receptive to you. It requires social judgment, but if your interoffice networking is well received, it is possible to expand your discussions to career development topics. But you’re looking for someone who can offer you some advice.
You can seek out hiring managers in different areas that interest you. When you reach out, avoid asking what she/he can do for you. Instead, show them what you can do for them. Show how you offer value and share ideas on how you can help. This can happen with current supervisors if this seems appropriate for you; this assumes you have a good performance record with your supervisor. When speaking to your boss or a unit leader, keep in mind how you could make his or her life simpler with your help. Come to a meeting with a list of accomplishments in mind that demonstrate the transferable skills you bring that could help the unit.
Not all organizations are the same in structure or in office politics. Some of you are in a situation where you can speak freely about your career plans. Or you may feel like you cannot breathe a word of what you want to explore, even to someone in the HR department. While my thoughts assume the ideal situation, I would encourage you to think in terms of finding allies whose discretion you can trust as you explore talking with others about the organization or about what they do. Ideally, you can talk to someone in the organization — but practically, you might do better to speak with people outside your organization.
Finding opportunities. Eventually, you have to learn about opportunities within your organization. Do you know where and when your company announces openings? Are you monitoring the advertised openings? If you are interested in a position, be sure to apply promptly. Also, there are often informal ways that people learn about opportunities in their company. If you learn about a lead, follow up with a manager in that department. Networking from within your organization allows you to have positive experiences with your colleagues that people outside your company will not have. Be sure to follow networking etiquette. For example, you want to avoid asking something such as, “Who is high up, and who does the hiring?” You want to build allies, not offend people.
Resources for Penn State World Campus Students
Be sure to reach out to a Penn State World Campus career counselor for help exploring your options in your organization; you can also take some career assessments by working with a career counselor. Likewise, there are written materials available to help as you consider making a change. For example, there are virtual career libraries, such as WetFeet or Vault, where you can learn about changing careers, along with finding other information in regard to networking and occupations.
Have you experienced a career shift at your current company? Share your perspectives by commenting below.