If your current career has you feeling like you’re in something of a rut, you may be looking for your next opportunity. However, many experts say the opportunities provided by a lateral career move can provide not only better successes, but higher job satisfaction as well.
Let’s discuss lateral career moves: what they are, their benefits for individuals and organizations, and when to make them.
What Is a Lateral Career Move?
A lateral career move is when you switch to a new job either within your current organization or to a new company entirely. These jobs are usually on the same level of hierarchy and generally with the same salary as your current position. Internally, this is frequently demonstrated by those moving to another department. When changing companies, it could mean retaining your job title.
When making an internal lateral career move, you’ll already be at least somewhat familiar with the company ecosystem, including policies, procedures, and culture. Depending on how different the job is, departmentally speaking, you may need to familiarize yourself with new policies and programs. Making this change internally also demonstrates your longevity and dedication within the organization, which can also help you move up.
Making a lateral career move to an entirely new company allows you to take what you’ve previously learned in your role and apply it to a new job. As with any major career change, there will be something of a learning curve to get to know the company. But if the position itself is comparable to what you had previously done, your foundational understanding of the job should help you to transition more easily.
Benefits of a Lateral Career Move
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “If I’m going to be doing essentially the same job for essentially the same amount of money, what is the point?” There can be many reasons why someone would want to make a lateral career move. The chief among them is increasing your own experience and skill set. This can be achieved by getting first-hand experience in a different department providing you with the opportunity to learn a new set of skills. This makes you more valuable in not only your current role, but any potential future positions as well.
Lateral career moves can help employees grow in their professional life without completely disrupting them. If the lateral move keeps you within the same company, the familiarity of the company culture can make that transition easier, providing you with something of a safety net while you familiarize yourself with your new responsibilities. If the lateral move involves changing companies entirely, your responsibilities then become that safety net while you learn a new company culture. In either scenario, at least one facet of your previous career remains the same.
Additional scenarios in which a lateral career move might be a good fit include the following:
- Increased job stability (e.g., if your department is being dissolved or outsourced, but you don’t want to leave the organization)
- Preparation for an eventual career change
- New challenges without additional responsibilities
- Demonstrating an ability to take on new responsibilities with the eventual goal of upward movement
- Conflict with a coworker or supervisor that cannot be resolved, allowing for a fresh start in your chosen field
- The opportunity to work with a team or person from whom you believe you could learn a lot.
Organizational Benefits of Lateral Career Moves
While an internal lateral career move can help you work toward your career goals, it can also benefit your employer. It alleviates the time and expense of interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees. But it also allows employers to retain employees who might otherwise be looking to leave by providing them with new opportunities. This approach benefits the organization as a whole and provides employees with higher job satisfaction. It’s a win-win for both situations.
When to Make a Lateral Career Move
Ultimately, the choice to make a career change—lateral or otherwise—boils down to your own professional goals. Any opportunity to expand your resume and skill set is a great benefit when broaching the subject of a salary increase or eventual promotion with an employer. As it pertains to companies, showing demonstrated evidence of a number of abilities can set employees apart when it comes to those topics.
If your current position has you feeling in need of something different, don’t jump headfirst into a career change. Instead, consider making a lateral career move. You’ll find yourself stretched in new ways while benefiting yourself and your company. It’s the perfect way to ease into a new chapter of your life.
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