Question: I’m an officer in the commercial loan department of a large bank. I’ve been with this bank for almost five years and I’m getting restless. While I’ve advanced rapidly in the loan department, it’s time for me to learn more about other areas of banking. Last week I heard about a new position in the commercial trust division that sounded really interesting. How do I apply for that job when I have no experience in commercial trust and my manager is notorious for “hanging on” to his good people?
Answer: You haven’t mentioned how you heard about the opening in trust. If it was through a job posting system, where anyone may respond, you can talk to a personnel representative, who should take your application to the trust manager for review.
If you heard about it via the grapevine, expressing your interest in person may be tough, especially if your boss and the trust manager know each other. On the other hand, while direct contact can be politically delicate, you may have a better chance of getting an interview if you pursue it yourself, rather than relying on someone in personnel.
In either situation you need to prepare a case for why the trust department should regard you as a potential asset, even though you lack trust experience. Your transferable skills plus your knowledge of the bank’s milieu are the keys to selling yourself. Get a job description of the position you want, if one’s available. Then examine your experience and pinpoint areas that most closely correlate to trust management. Skills such as planning and initiating projects, motivating staff, using numbers as reasoning tools, and developing rapport with customers should all be valuable in both loan and trust activities.
Be sure to tell your manager that you are looking into the new position. He needs to hear this from you, not personnel or the grapevine. Emphasize that to pursue a career in banking, you need a greater breadth of experience to build on the excellent foundation he’s given you. Also, be prepared to tell him why your move will benefit him and the company and how you plan to make your transfer as painless as possible for his department.
Finally, learn an important lesson from this experience. Don’t confine all of your attention to the department where you are currently working. If you want to move within the bank’s hierarchy, you must make contacts throughout the organization who will help you get what you want. It’s much easier for someone to pull you into his area than for you to push your way out of a stale situation.