When It Is OK to Move Sideways Instead of Up

By Deanna Bonaparte

When it comes to your career path, upward isn’t the only direction to travel. A sideways or ‘lateral’ move – defined as a move either within your current company or to a new organisation with similar remuneration, responsibilities and a similar title – can often pay off in the future. For a business to compete effectively in today’s diverse and highly competitive markets, the demand for employees who have had experience in various aspects of the industry and have handled diversified portfolios is probably even higher than the demand for purely functional employees who have been given promotions because of their steadfast performance.

An Array of Opportunities

A lateral move at work is comparable to a frog hopping onto the next lily pad in line, instead of climbing up the ladder to the tree-top. Let’s face it – there are far more lily pads in the pond than there are tree-top ladders and if encountering a change is instrumental to your personal development, it might be better to hop across rather than wait for the chance to climb up.

Regardless of whether it’s a step up the ladder or a shift sideways, it is important to expand your skillset and explore new arenas in order to mitigate the chances of feeling bored and unmotivated at work. If the window of opportunity opens up for you to make a lateral move, consider it as a means to grow and try your hand at new projects and initiatives.

Plan Your Moves

Another thing to note about your lateral career move is that the positions reflected in your resume may not align to show a smooth, progressive track. It is important to select your moves in such a way that will lead future employers to understand that you have a plan in mind. For instance, think about what a move from being a project manager to being a quality assurance manager will tell your next employer. In order to plan your moves, you need to know what kind of work you want to do and the kind of skills that you need.

You can prepare yourself for a new role by taking up courses or by reading books dedicated to heighten your knowledge in the field. By indicating in your resume that you have attended courses to gain a more intimate understanding of your role, you would be made out to be a far-sighted worker who is clear of his directions.

Knowing the Right People

A lateral career move is a chance to widen not only your skillset, but also your professional network. Working with different people helps you broaden your perspective, and the relationships you have forged and accumulated will have a positive and lasting effect on your career path. Furthermore, moving on to another division gives you added visibility and more opportunities to showcase your talents given the new responsibilities associated with a new job position. Many employers take note of workers who have a broad knowledge of the business or industry when they are looking at offering a promotion – that is to say, a lateral move might eventually lead you to scale the corporate ladder after all!

What are your thoughts on progressing laterally? Share with us in the comment box below!

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