A lateral career move might not seem ideal. The thought of changing companies to do a job at the same level seems counterintuitive. What’s the point of such a change? Won’t it hurt my career? Will future employers look at my resume and wonder why I switched jobs without advancing?
These are all valid concerns. But, the truth is a lateral move can be the right career choice, depending on your circumstance. Below we’ll go through some of the ways a move sideways can actually lead to professional growth and a pathway to career advancement.
If you’ve spent your entire career in an industry or field, you can become pigeonholed. Making a change, even a lateral one, can broaden your experience and diversify a resume. If you’ve spent your entire career in one specific industry, future employers might view your background narrowly. Sometimes it’s good to show employers that your skills are transferable. It can be good to show potential employers that you aren’t just a person who has knowledge and expertise about the financial sector, or media, or real estate, for example.
If all of your experience is in one sector, it can sometimes be difficult to break out of that sector, limiting future career options. Sometimes people simply want to work in another area because they believe it will provide more significant opportunities; a lateral move to gain some experience in that sector might be the best way to make a change.
Building new skills
A lateral move to a company that provides experience with skills you’d like to develop can be a great way to create future career opportunities. Some companies are more apt to explore new technology or are in more cutting-edge fields. Perhaps you feel like your company or industry is a bit behind, and there’s a lateral move to a place that will allow you to develop a skillset you feel you’ll need. In this instance, a lateral move can actually be a career saver.
If you are working for a company or industry that is falling behind the times, not keeping up with technology, and not helping you build new skills, it might be time for a lateral move.
Sometimes we simply outgrow the company we are working for, and this is OK. A lateral switch to a larger company, or a fast-growing organization, can create new career paths and opportunities. This is also easily explainable to future employers. People understand changing jobs, even making a lateral move, to go to a larger company with more room for advancement. Also, sometimes when people work for one company for a long time, they are perceived a certain way. Perhaps the company you work for really likes you, but they’ve decided you are not senior management material or you are pigeonholed into a specific role that you’d like to move on from.
Another factor can be if you work in a place that has entrenched management. Sometimes a person can do a terrific job but run into a situation where they really have nowhere to go in a company. The company has an established management structure, and there simply is no place for future promotions. This can particularly be the case at smaller or mid-sized companies. In this instance, a lateral move to a larger organization can free you from a career logjam.
You are unhappy
Nothing hurts a career more than hating your job. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe you just don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss. Maybe the job isn’t what you expected. Perhaps the company is not doing as well, and there is constant stress. Or maybe you’ve just been in the same place for too long a time. Whatever the reason, if you are truly unhappy, a lateral move is a viable option. Sure, you could try and gut it out and wait for a job to open somewhere that is a step up, but in the meantime, you are unhappy. And it’s quite likely your employer is aware, and they either are or soon will be, unhappy with you.
Everyone deserves happiness, and people who are happy and enjoy their job are more engaged. The work is better. If you are in a situation that isn’t working out, do yourself a favor and make a job change. It’s best for you and your employer.
On the surface, a lateral move might sound like a setback or that your career is stuck in neutral and not going anywhere. The reality is that the right sort of lateral move can position you for career growth. Sometimes it’s just time for a new place – whether to build new skills, switch careers, change fields, or find happiness.
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