Internal mobility
Training & Learning

How to Advocate for Your Own Internal Mobility (in 3 Steps)

Whether you like to call it job hopping or you hate the term—and whether we like it or not—job hopping is on the rise. 

The majority of workers—64% favor job hopping, according to a new survey by staffing firm Robert Half. That’s up 22% from a similar survey four years ago. Of course, Millennial workers felt the most favorably about changing jobs often, with 75% of employees under 34 surveyed agreeing that job hopping could benefit their careers. 

To me, as a Zillenial—born too late to really feel like a Millennial but too early to be Gen Z‚—this makes complete sense. My mom has been at the same company for her entire career, I’m 25 and have already worked for twice the amount of companies my mom has. For those counting at home, that’s two.

We entered the workforce at fundamentally different times in history—one where risks and finding the next best thing are more deeply ingrained in my generation versus stability and reliability that was needed and necessary when my mom was entering the workforce.

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Why employers need to invest in internal mobility opportunities

Although money was not the only driver that motivated me to change jobs, it did have an impact on my decision. 

This is the norm, according to Forbes; on average, those who choose to switch jobs enjoyed compensation growth of 5.3% at new companies. 

So with younger generations prioritizing themselves and their careers over loyalty to a company, organizations who want to retain top talent need to think more about retention of existing employees through talent mobility—tapping your existing talent pool. 

Job hoppers, especially those who were the driving force behind the Great Resignation, cite new opportunities, higher pay, and new skills to learn as the main reasons for quitting. Dig deeper, and they are seeking work-life balance and fulfillment at work.

Given these employee needs, internal mobility and career advancement for internal hires should be a priority at your company. On the employee side of the story, if you’re looking for internal mobility by moving into a different role, you can use these data points to your advantage. You meet the company’s evolving business needs and get the desired outcome from the company you’re at right now. 

Just like it’s cheaper for a company to retain and expand a customer versus going out and trying to find new ones, the same goes for retaining and mobilizing your existing team by helping them reskill and upskill

The easiest way to create internal mobility is to create career development opportunities and fill skills gaps, which are high on the wish list of many employees these days, particularly Millennials. 

Now, I’ve never been on a People or Human Resources team, so I can’t always speak directly to those folks about exactly how to implement an internal mobility strategy within an organization. 

However, I have been in your position, the position of someone who wants to grow, wants internal mobility within their own organization, and feels like they just have to say the right things and make the right argument to push something into motion. 

To grow in your career, you can rarely sit idly by and try to wait for things to happen to you. Taking a proactive approach shows just how much you care about your own success but the future success of employees just like you who want the same opportunities. 

You have more power than you think in your company, so here are some strategies you can use to focus on internal mobility in your company.

So with younger generations prioritizing themselves and their careers over loyalty to a company, organizations who want to retain talent need to think more about retention of existing employees. 

1. Bring up internal mobility early and often 

When you’re having one on one’s with your manager, even if you’re early in your career, ask them about the career path of your role. 

Not sure what questions to ask to understand your career path?

Try these: 

  • “What goals and skill sets do I need to hit to get a promotion?”
  • “What responsibilities do you expect me to have in order to be promoted?”
  • “What is one of the larger problems our team is solving and how can I be involved in helping to solve it?” 

These questions and the answers your manager gives to these questions can help you understand how to take on more responsibility, be included in more decisions, be exposed to more parts of the business, and become more valuable to the organization. 

They help you be involved in setting your own OKRs for internal mobility and give you the autonomy to track your progress on your own. 

Proactively asking to be involved in more projects also help you get exposure to more areas of focus. When you’re early on in your career this exposure is crucial to help you determine what path you want to take. 

You don’t need to specialize yourself right off the bat, instead try to gain as much experience as possible so you have a wide breadth of knowledge and are a strong contender when new positions open up. 

Not only should you be asking these questions around internal mobility, it should be the area of focus for one of your one-on-ones on a regular basis—whether that’s quarterly or monthly, it is your responsibility to bring up career conversations regularly so you can check in with your manager to let them know how you’ve been pacing towards hitting your goals. 

However, it’s not just your responsibility to map out your career path. Your manager needs to help and enable you within the organization, whether you’re considering a lateral move or a higher open position. 

Related: Classic Management Training is Failing Your Employees—Here’s What They Need Instead

2. Give your manager homework

If you’ve asked the questions above and your manager cannot give you an answer to those questions yet, give them homework. 

Whether you like to set reminders for yourself to remind your manager, put a calendar reminder on their schedule, bring it up in every one-on-one, or send them an email or Slack. Make sure you are holding your manager to what they owe you: A path to better career opportunities

A few tips when it comes to being persistent about holding your manager accountable: 

  1. Keep your reminders frequent enough, but not unreasonable. Following up with a manager a few hours, or even 24 hours after your initial meeting about goals may be too soon, especially for earlier-stage companies where corporate ladders and growth haven’t been defined or standardized across the organization.
  2. Keep your methods of communication un-ignorable. Slack and Direct Messages can be lost in the shuffle easily and quickly. Keep communication about important matters like this in email and on the agenda for calls. It adds legitimacy to your request and helps your manager recognize that you’re taking this topic seriously.
  3. Don’t feel awkward or think that you’re being annoying. You’re advocating for yourself and you should be given this information. You’re not asking too much of your manager or of the company to make it clear how you grow in that environment. Your career growth matters and should be prioritized. 

When in doubt or when getting the answers to your internal mobility questions answered feels like it may need more work, you can loop in other team members to help drive these conversations forward.

Related: The What, Why, and How of Mentorship Programs at Work

3. Loop in HR to help facilitate and drive conversations

Maybe you’re not comfortable talking to your manager, or this will be your first time advocating for your career growth, and you’re not sure how to go about it within your own organization. 

That’s what the HR and People teams are there for—to help you navigate how the company is structured and understand where you fit in now and where you have the opportunity to fit in in the future. 

You could be at a huge company where there’s tons of bureaucracy and you’re just not sure what internal opportunities across the organization look like. Or maybe you’re at an early-stage startup trying to address the first conversation about promotions or team changes in the history of the company—you shouldn’t and don’t have to have those conversations alone. 

Your manager could also be struggling with career pathing for your team or they themselves aren’t sure how to work around the processes and procedures needed for you to grow within the company. When you lay the groundwork with your manager or the HR team, they will send learning opportunities your way to build your competencies. Then, when a vacancy opens up, you could be first in line instead of a new hire. This isn’t just good news for you, it’s better for the company’s bottom line and their employee retention.

Owning your internal mobility and enabling your company to help you grow

There are some parts to your career path that are strictly your own—the path you want to take, the way your one-on-ones are structured, the goals you set for yourself, the communication you have with your company.

But there are parts of your career path that have to be owned by the company. Those parts of your growth may not be prioritized in the everyday operations of your company. That doesn’t mean that you have to own them, but it does give you the opportunity to hold the company accountable for everyone’s growth and the future of work for those who stay. 

That makes you a better leader, makes the company a better place to work, and creates a culture of internal mobility from the bottom- up and top-down.