What Is a Lateral Move, and Should You Make One? Tips for Career Growth

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What Is a Lateral Move, and Should You Make One? Tips for Career Growth
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What Is a Lateral Move, and Should You Make One? Tips for Career Growth

Does everyone tell you that the only way to move ahead in your career is by climbing higher and higher?

But what if there’s another path – one that might surprise you? It’s called a lateral move, and it’s all about going sideways instead of up.

In this blog post, we’re going to help you decide whether a lateral move in the workplace will be a power move or a step back for you.

So, get ready to discover what a lateral move is, explore a real-world example, and learn the top reasons for making lateral moves. Also, we’ll share some downsides to help you prepare for this important career step.

What Is a Lateral Move at Work

What Is a Lateral Move at Work?

A lateral move is when you switch to a different job in the same company but at a similar level of importance and pay. In other words, the new job might be in a different department or team, but it won’t come with a higher position or more money. So, you move sideways instead of moving up or down.

To put it simply, a lateral move is like changing seats in a classroom. You’re still in the same classroom with the same teacher, but you get to experience a different perspective.

In a lateral career change, it’s similar. You’re already working in a company, and instead of moving up or down, you move sideways to a different role or department. Once you get to work with different people, you start learning new things and growing, just like changing seats in a classroom lets you see things from a different angle.

Let’s put this into context.

A Real-World Example of a Lateral Career Move

Chelsea Harrison, a senior product manager, started her career as a Technical Support Representative without knowing what she wanted to do in the long run.

But she didn’t let that stop her.

She began exploring other teams within her company and taking on new responsibilities. Then, she decided to make lateral moves, switching to different roles while learning new things along the way.

Even though some tasks were boring, they taught Chelsea a lot about how the company worked. And some things excited her, especially those related to problem-solving. Eventually, she discovered her passion for product management, a field she didn’t even know existed before.

As Chelsea continued her journey, she gained a wide range of skills. She had experience in customer support, data analytics, and technical specifications. These skills came from different roles within the team and helped her stand out from the crowd.

A pro tip for making lateral moves at work

Chelsea’s story reminds us that lateral career moves, when approached with purpose and a focus on growth, can lead to a successful career journey. Also, it hints that skills, not just hard work, lead to success in the end.

So, first and foremost, think about what you’ll gain. Lateral moves in a company are your chance to try new things, build skills, and figure out your long-term goals. That’s why it’s important to identify whether you’re truly learning new skills or just taking on more work.

6 Major Reasons for Making a Lateral Move

Is It Time to Go Sideways? 6 Major Reasons for Making a Lateral Move

What can push you to make a lateral move at work? And why should you consider going sideways?

Well, there are plenty of reasons to make a lateral move in your career. Let’s break it down:

Accept New Challenges and Learn

By making a lateral move, you can experience something different and take on exciting challenges. If you’re ambitious and hard-working, it’s a chance to learn different things and expand your skills.

By the way, most employees, about 66% of them, will check if there are any exciting job openings in their current company before searching elsewhere. This shows that they want to stay loyal to their employers, but only if they can have a chance to grow. They want to find something that brings them more joy or be given the opportunity to face a fresh challenge.

Explore and Find Your Path

A lateral move lets you explore different areas within your organization and figure out what you truly enjoy doing. Well, it’s like trying on different hats until you find the right fit.

Grow Professionally

Furthermore, your current role may feel repetitive, unchallenging, or lacking in meaningful tasks. Moving laterally is great for meeting new teams and perspectives, which helps you grow professionally. As a result, you become more adaptable and better at solving problems.

Build a Larger Network

When you make a lateral career change, you connect with new colleagues and expand your network. Soon, these connections will bring valuable insights and collaboration opportunities. What’s more, you may find mentors who’ll guide and support you in your career aspirations.

Achieve Work-Life Balance

Heavy workloads, long working hours, or an unhealthy work-life balance can negatively affect your well-being. But here’s the good news: a lateral move can improve your work-life balance by giving you a role with better hours. Or even a better fit for your personal life. In short, it’s a nice chance to prioritize your well-being while advancing your career.

Break Free from Stagnation

If you feel stuck in your current role, a lateral move can provide a fresh start and open up new growth opportunities. It can restore your motivation and bring excitement back into your work. What’s more, if you’re experiencing a toxic work environment filled with disagreement and negativity, a lateral move can provide an opportunity to join a team with a healthier culture.

Achieve Job Security

Finally, if your company is going through organizational changes, such as structural changes or layoffs, it can create job insecurity or a shift in your responsibilities. In such cases, a lateral move can be a proactive step to secure a stable position within the organization.

Lateral Moves in Career

Lateral Moves in Career: 5 Disadvantages to Consider.

No matter how you define a lateral move, it remains a valuable opportunity for professional growth. But wait. Can a lateral move be the wrong step? What are some downsides you should consider before going sideways?

Next, we explore the four main cons of making lateral career moves to help you make an informed decision.

1. Salary and Compensation

In some cases, a lateral move may not come with an immediate salary increase. If you want a new job to make more money, a lateral move might not help you achieve that goal. You may not have immediate financial gains; instead, you’ll have to think about the long-term advantages and opportunities for growth.

2. The Adaptation Period

A lateral career move is when you switch to a different job, and obviously, this means learning something new. Adjusting to new responsibilities, processes, and coworkers can be tough. Therefore, make sure you’re ready for this period of adaptation. If needed, seek support and resources to help you transition smoothly.

3. Limited Organizational Impact

After going sideways, you might have less say in decision-making than before. Once you move to a new team or department, it could take time to prove yourself and earn respect. So, think about how this might affect your level of responsibility and influence in the company.

4. Reduced Job Security

Finally, making a lateral move usually means experiencing some uncertainty and instability. And that’s natural. You’ll be entering a new environment with different expectations and performance measures. There might be a probation period or employee evaluation in the new role, which can bring a certain level of risk. Take the time to consider how this could affect your job security and assess the stability of the new position.

While assessing these downsides, take the time to do your full research and seek guidance from mentors or trusted colleagues. Before you decide to make a lateral move, make sure these drawbacks do not conflict with your long-term career goals.

Final Thoughts

And, again, what is a lateral move? It’s a refreshing alternative that allows individuals to explore new territories and expand their career. Especially in a world where career growth is often seen as similar to climbing the ladder.

In fact, with talent mobility taking center stage, organizations understand that progress doesn’t always mean moving up. A lateral move is an opportunity to acquire diverse skills, build a broader network, and gain a better idea of different aspects of your organization.

So, why settle for a linear path when you can take a lateral leap? Challenge the status quo and make your own path. Soon, your career will thank you for it.

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