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How to Tell Your Boss You Want to Change Careers

Even if you don’t have company initiatives that support career changes, you don’t have to quit to change direction

Rachel Cooper
Freelance Writer

woman talking on cell phoneRachel Cooper is a writer and creative based in Kansas City, Missouri. She's also cofounder of Read Poetry, an online platform and community dedicated to modern poetry and its role in today's society.

So you’re unhappy in your current role. Maybe it’s not what you expected. Maybe you’re feeling burned out. Maybe you need a career change.

Changing careers is more accepted today than ever before. Whereas Boomers and Gen Xers had just one or two jobs in their first 10 years out of college, Millennials are changing jobs—and often careers—up to four times by the time they’re 32.

And that’s okay. The time is now to explore different options—to discover what you like and don’t like and tailor your career path to one that is fulfilling and leaves plenty of room for upward mobility.

If the source of your current unhappiness has to do with your company’s culture, then maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. But if you often find yourself saying, “I love where I work—I just don’t love my job” or you’re just curious as to what’s out there, then maybe it’s time to look around your office for new opportunities.

Don’t know where to start? Check your company’s Careers page for job listings. If there aren’t any positions available or ones that you’re interested in, try reaching out to your boss to let them know you’d like to talk about shifting career paths.

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Explain to your manager in a respectful way what’s working and what’s not working in your current role and ask if there are opportunities in the company that might better align with your career goals. Wanting to switch teams isn’t an inherently negative thing, and working together with your boss in this way may lead to a smoother transition later on.

If you’ve already found an open position you’d like to apply for, be prepared to tell your boss why you’d be a bitter fit in that role than in your current one. Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better, LLC, suggests explaining how your transfer will benefit your company and its goals by highlighting your skills and identifying areas where you’d like to grow.

Be sure that the job you have in mind matches your skill set, and frame your request with those criteria in mind. “It’s much more compelling to say that you heard the marketing team’s starting to search for a candidate with a background in graphic design, which is right up your alley,” Richard Moy from The Muse writes, “—rather than, ‘I want to work in marketing.’”

Take a look at the job description for the role you’re interested in. Compare it with your resume and your current work and note any similarities. Then outline this for your boss and explain the pros of your move. Even if you have a supportive relationship with your boss, don’t assume they’re going to automatically say yes. Be persuasive but also mindful of their investment in you and your work.

Read more: From TV to Carpentry: How TLC Star Ananda Lewis Found a Career She Loves

If you talk through your goals with your boss and they aren’t receptive, don’t be discouraged. You’ve now defined what you want from a career and can transfer those ideas to a job application or interview.

But maybe your boss is receptive and wants to help you find the perfect fit within your company. Congratulations! It’s likely that you won’t start your position right away, so take that time to coordinate with your former and new manager to ensure a smooth transition.

Get to know the people on your new team by setting up 1:1 meetings where you can learn more about your new role and how you can succeed in it. This is also a great time to meet with your future boss and see if there are any training sessions you need to complete or resources you should brush up on. Maybe there’s a new version of Adobe Creative Suite you need to learn or articles you should be reading.

Lastly, make sure you’re clear on the timeline of your transition. Give yourself enough time to finish up any pressing projects and train the person replacing you. If you’re working with clients you’ve built relationships with, you’ll want to have plenty of time to get them used to someone new.

Confirm with your new manager any upcoming deadlines or projects so that you can hit the ground running. And don’t forget that moving around is still an option. If you settle into a new career path and find it’s not for you, it’s never too late to explore other options.

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