The Right Job, Just Not the Right Department

Q. I recently got a job at a renowned political advocacy organization. I really like the organization and am aligned with them ideologically. The only problem is, I am working in a department that I really don't have an interest in working in long term. Ideally, I would like to stay here and eventually make a switch to a department I am interested in and have some experience in (policy or communications). I am new to the organization and don't really know anyone in those departments. How should I approach this? What can I do to reach my goals here? I know the departments I am interested in do not currently have any openings. Also, I don't want to do anything that would upset my department head — I want to do this in the most appropriate way possible.

A. Congrats on the new job! Many organizations are structured so that if you succeed in one realm, other departments may take notice. But you bring up a good point: how to go about doing so in such a way that doesn’t offend the current hierarchy. Hill Navigator has some tips for you:

Long term is not what it used to be. Look around your organization: How long have most people been in their current roles? If your group is anything like one of the other political orgs in D.C., most people stay in their current spots for only a couple years, some even less. How long has your boss been in his/her current role? What about your predecessor? Those answers can give you a good idea about how long you’re expected to be in your role before you can make a jump.

Success travels. If you are an ace at your current job, other departments will know about it. Offices gossip, people know who gets things done and who snoozes at their desk after lunch. View your current role as a platform to go other places. A smart company wants to retain talent. If you can identify yourself as someone worth keeping, they will be more likely to open more doors to do so.

Talk goals at the right times. Your boss does want to hear about your goals, but not necessarily right now. There will come a time when he or she will want to hear about your interests and start talking about your long-term future. The trick is to wait for that time. Usually this comes in the form of an annual or semi-annual review. Don’t have one of those? Schedule one. Ask for a chance to go over areas of success and improvement for the coming year. A good boss will want to help you grow.

Don’t give up. Say you’ve done everything — shined brightly, waited patiently, found your dream job — but still haven’t made a move? Don’t bail on your company too quickly; they were willing to take a chance on you once and are more likely to do so again. Find someone else to speak with, preferably someone who has made a similar move or works in your desired department. Go for coffee, ask about their experience, and see what other avenues are available to you. You won't be the first person in this town who has opted for a chance to improve themselves.