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The Road Less Traveled to the C-Suite

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Sometimes the best career move isn’t up, but sideways.

If you set out years ago with the goal of one day becoming CEO, or any other role you consider the pinnacle of your career, it can be hard to accept that a lateral move might be the best move.

Careers don’t have to progress along a predetermined upward path. In fact, few do. CEOs get ousted, companies get bought, people get laid off. After any upheaval, many employees wind up making changes they didn’t expect. And people who decide to change careers or industries often take a matching or lower salary as they relaunch their careers.

It might have seemed in the past that a lateral move was a fall-back option, something to do only when you didn’t grab the spot you really wanted. That is no longer the case. Corporate hierarchies are flattening, and it is no longer an impossible idea for someone in the C-suite of a Fortune 100 company to leave to take over a start-up.

Most people–at all stages of their careers- find that money and titles don’t determine job satisfaction. More important is whether they are happy with the daily tasks of their jobs  and their relationships with their bosses and colleagues. A new gig with the latter qualities may be a better choice than an upward move that includes working with a difficult boss or cutthroat colleagues.

Most of the reasons to consider making a lateral move by choice are personal ones, writes Bobbie LaPorte, CEO of RAL & Associates, a career development firm, on CEO.com. Here is her list of five good reasons to move sideways.

  1. It gives new life to a sluggish career. A new job might reinvigorate your career, offering new challenges and experiences.
  2. You can make things better. You could use your unique skills and experience to turn a struggling company around.
  3. You need a change. A new job may make sense if you want a change of scene. Maybe your new job is in a city you’ve always dreamed of living in or in an industry that’s always interested you.
  4. You have personal reasons to move. A lateral move may make sense on a personal level. Perhaps you want to have more time for your hobbies or live closer to your family.
  5. You’re anticipating a company change. You sense your current position or industry may become irrelevant or head into a downward spiral.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.