Mary Barra worked at GM in two different positions before she landed her current gig as CEO.
Mary Barra worked at GM in two different positions before she landed her current gig as CEO. - 
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The economy might not be firing on all cylinders, but it is adding jobs. So what’s the best strategy for people who are employed and looking for something better in their own company? Internal candidates often have an advantage, but being an insider can sometimes prove a double-edged sword: You know the terrain, but everyone else knows your baggage.

Here are a few pieces of advice from Beth Kelly, managing partner of HR Collaborative in Michigan, and Thomas Kochan of MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Think about projects or assignments you’ve had in the past that would be good predictors for the new job you want. Beth Kelly says internal candidates are sometimes typecast as the accounting clerk or the receptionist. It can be hard to break out of those roles and convince the hiring manager you can also be a marketing specialist. Having concrete examples of your potential can help.

If your only route into a company is as temporary employee, treat that temp job like it’s the most important job you’ve had. In some fields, like manufacturing, temporary work has increasingly become the path to employment. Beth Kelly calls it a 90-day interview. Contingent hiring may be unsettling, but Kelly advises you to seize the opportunity and show what a team player you are.

If you trust your current boss, tell them you’re thinking about a job switch right away. If there’s not a trusting relationship, it’s different. Ask the manager to whom you’re applying for a job to tell you before speaking to your current supervisor. Having an open conversation with a trusted boss can open up opportunities. Thomas Kochan also encourages internal candidates who don’t get the new job to seek honest feedback on how to prepare for the next opening.

Apply for the job. Yes, it might be uncomfortable. But Thomas Kochan says many potential internal candidates who talk themselves out of applying for jobs later regret it.