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Beyond the Ladder: Embracing Internal Mobility with Anita Bowness

Posting date: 11/13/2023

“Career progression is no longer only linear, and traditional career paths and ladders are now far less common than they were even a decade ago. Instead of emphasizing promotions, job titles and climbing rungs of a ladder — we need to dig deeper and think more holistically."

“An Unconventional Climb”, Anita Bowness, at: WorkSpan. Educating and Inspiring World At Work, November/December 2020

Before starting job at SmartRecruiters, Anita Bowness shared some insights on how career paths are getting a makeover. It's not just a straight climb up anymore. And the best part? Anita's own journey here mirrors exactly what she wrote about. Join us as we explore her path and the broader concept of internal mobility.

Background & Transition

Can you briefly describe your journey at SmartRecruiters before the transition?

In 2021, I made a significant decision to leave a company I had been with and embarked on my own "external/internal mobility" journey. I was referred to SmartRecruiters by a former colleague that I had worked closely with, and took on the role of North American and Asia Pacific Director of Customer Success. This move wasn't just a lateral one; it was a deliberate shift from my previous role, driven by a desire to engage with external customers and delve deeper into Talent Acquisition. Drawing from my past experience as a People Manager, I had enriching discussions about employee development, experience, internal mobility, and performance management with my peers in the CSA and my SPP.

What motivated you to make the switch from your previous position to Director of People Engagement, Learning, and Development?

My background before joining the company was in HR tech and consulting with companies on employee experience learning and development, and performance management.  When this role came up, it was my dream job!  Even though I really enjoyed my current job and team, I took the chance and applied for it knowing that I had nothing to lose by having an initial conversation.

Understanding Internal Mobility

How would you differentiate between upward career progression and internal mobility idea?

When we think about internal mobility and career development, it's common to picture a linear progression. Starting as an individual contributor, advancing to a senior role, then transitioning to Frontline Management, perhaps becoming a People Leader, expanding in knowledge, and even evolving into a Principal Consultant. However, upward career progression is just one facet of internal mobility. It's about taking on increasing levels of responsibility, complexity, or accountability within a specific function or role. On the other hand, internal mobility can also encompass moving across teams, departments, or functions, exploring new opportunities, and transferring skills and experience to meet new challenges within the organization.

Why do you believe internal mobility is crucial for modern organizations, especially for SmartRecruiters?

I think there are two things to look at: what's in it for the employees and what's in it for the business. For employees, we all want to feel connected and valued at work, and we all have different motivations for what we find meaningful. Internal mobility can help with organizational bench strength. It retains critical knowledge and experience in the business and drives an engaged and productive workforce, which ultimately helps meet strategic objectives.

Personal Growth & Experience

How has this transition impacted your personal 

and professional growth? 

Were there any challenges you faced during the transition, and how did you overcome them?

Yes, I think a challenge that's probably unique to many people when they move is the sense of connection to their previous team and role. As a people leader, I wrestled with my feelings about leaving a team that I truly loved and starting in a new role. I felt guilty about leaving them behind. However, I made sure to support them through the transition and was also part of the onboarding process for the person who took over my previous responsibilities.

Company Culture & Opportunities

How does SmartRecruiters support employees in their internal mobility journey?

SmartRecruiters actively looks for ways to support the development and performance of team members. In my previous department, the Customer Success Alliance, we had discussions about our experiences and skills. When the People Team was strategizing for the year, they decided to offer a particular role internally first. This approach gave me the confidence to apply, knowing we were prioritizing internal talent. Having open internal conversations about career interests, with supportive peers and managers, has been invaluable. I've always believed in helping teams succeed in their current roles while preparing them for future opportunities, and I see that same commitment at SmartRecruiters.

What advice would you give to someone considering a similar internal move within SmartRecruiters or any other organization?

First, think about what you're good at and where you believe your strengths lie. Reflect on your best day at work: What were you doing? How did it make you feel? Consider the reasons behind those feelings and think about where else in the business you might be able to have similar experiences. 

Next, have conversations with colleagues about what it's like to work in their teams. Learn about how those teams work, or responsibilities of other roles at a similar level to see if your skills and interests are relevant.

Finally, don't be afraid to take chances or try new things. I've always been open to taking risks, and it has served me well. Remember, internal mobility isn't just about moving up; it can be about taking on new responsibilities, or becoming a subject matter expert, or being an influencer in the company. It's about finding what's meaningful and rewarding to you.

How do you envision the future of internal mobility at SmartRecruiters?

We've always valued internal mobility at SmartRecruiters. Just look at those who have been with us for 10 years and see their growth and development. That's what internal mobility is about: staying with the company, moving around, and exploring new roles. Whether it's an engineer transitioning between different engineering teams or someone in product management navigating through various aspects of our product. Internal mobility is deeply ingrained in our culture and DNA. 

Going forward, SmartRecruiters is making internal mobility a priority with processes and conversations tailored to each employee's journey. Our leveling framework will aid in these discussions, breaking down silos and fostering collaboration. It's not just about raising your hand for a new role but sharing stories, illustrating potential paths, and understanding where one can take their skills. Whether it's a vertical move, a lateral one, or expanding skills in the current role by working with different teams and projects, it's all part of the internal mobility landscape at SmartRecruiters.

“Up is no longer the only way — or for many organizations, even an option right now — so talent leaders need to get creative and find other ways to offer the growth and development that employees crave and that will propel the business forward.”

“An Unconventional Climb”, Anita Bowness, at: WorkSpan. Educating and Inspiring World At Work, November/December 2020) 

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