Career Development

How to Make a Lateral Move

February 5, 2021

As you progress in your career, you may feel more pressure to climb the corporate ladder. However, not all career moves are about moving up. Sometimes, it makes more sense to make a lateral career change. In this article, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of lateral career moves along with the steps you will need to take to make one.

What is a lateral move?

When someone makes a lateral move, they switch to a job with similar responsibility and pay levels to their previous position. Lateral career moves can happen within the same company or between different employers. While many people would prefer a promotion, a lateral move can sometimes be the perfect career choice.

If you change jobs within the same company, you get the opportunity to learn new tasks and expand your skill set. You will be familiar with your employer's protocols and the company culture, so learning about computer systems and getting to know your coworkers should be much easier. If you apply for the same position at another company, you will need to learn some new procedures, but you will be familiar with most of the job's requirements and responsibilities.

Why should you make a lateral move?

Spending time searching, applying and interviewing for a job that is similar to the one you already have may not seem worth the effort. However, there are several good reasons why employees should consider making a lateral move:

Expanding your skills

Every new role brings new challenges, even if it's similar to the one you filled before. You could need to learn new procedures, communicate with new contractors, meet new people or take on new responsibilities. When you make your next career move, you will be able to mention your new skills in interviews and on your resume.

Related: Technical Skills: Definition and Examples

Increasing your visibility

Changing departments can help you get acquainted with different supervisors at a variety of management levels. The more managers who are familiar with you and your skills, the more likely your employer is to award or promote you for your accomplishments. Versatile, adaptable employees with diverse skill sets are more valuable to employers, so they are more likely to get raises and promotions.

Pursuing a promotion

Even if you work in an exciting career with plenty of opportunities, you could end up in a company or department with low growth potential. If your supervisor seems unwilling to give out promotions, consider changing departments or applying for jobs at other businesses. Managers in a different environment could be more willing to recognize your full potential.

Staying at the same level

Not everyone wants to work in management or a supervisory position. Managers spend much of their time filling out paperwork, resolving disputes, and giving feedback to employees. They often have to meet sales goals and keep the costs of businesses down. Many people enjoy interacting with customers and creating products people love more than leading others. Making a lateral move allows you to increase your knowledge and experience without the stress of a management position.

Increasing your job satisfaction

Your happiness is paramount when trying to decide whether it is time to search for a new job. If you do not like the work you are doing or your coworkers or boss, consider changing companies or moving to another department. Moving to a position that makes you excited to come to work every day is often the best choice.

When should you avoid a lateral career move?

Here are some instances in which you should avoid making a lateral career move:

Lower pay

The best lateral career moves come with at least a modest pay increase. This is particularly true if you are changing companies. You will need to move or get used to a different commute and learn the policies of a new organization. Even if it allows you to learn new skills, taking a job at a lower pay level could harm you more than it benefits you.

Employers are often reluctant to give raises to their current employees, so you should beware of wage stagnation as well. If you make a lateral move within your company, ask for a modest raise that reflects your qualifications, experience and familiarity with the business.

Read more: How to Negotiate Salary (With Examples)

Potential harm to your reputation

Since most employees are focused on getting their next promotion, your coworkers or supervisors might judge you for making a lateral move. If you are staying with the same company, it might look like you are trying to avoid added responsibility. People could also assume that you did not get along with your previous supervisor. People who frequently change jobs might look unreliable to others as well. Make sure you let your new supervisor and coworkers know that you are committed to accomplishing your career goals and doing an excellent job at your new position.

Fewer opportunities for advancement

Sometimes, switching departments can take you out of the line of succession for supervisory and management positions. It could also give you fewer opportunities to interact with executives and showcase your qualifications for an eventual promotion. Before you accept a lateral move, speak with your manager or a mentor in the company that you trust and consider their advice. While the right lateral move can bring you closer to your dream job, the wrong one could delay your career goals.

More responsibilities

If you will need to work more hours or deal with a longer commute, even a position that comes with a raise may not be worth taking. You should also consider the benefits that a new job offers and make sure they are comparable or better than the ones for your current role.

How to make a lateral move

If you decide that a lateral career move is the right option for you, take these steps to improve your chances of success:

  1. Self-examine. Take some time to decide exactly what you are hoping to achieve with this career change. Make sure that a shift in job title is the best solution. If you are dissatisfied with your current job, speaking to your manager about your concerns could be easier than changing jobs. If management chooses not to listen, you can still look for a new position.
  2. Set clear goals. Determine exactly what you want to get out of a career change. Write down your salary and benefits requirements and decide precisely what you would like to stay the same and what you want to see change in a new job. That way, you can apply for positions that will make you happy and improve your career.
  3. Find your new job. Depending on the career change you want to make, you may need to job search within and outside your current company. Talk to the hiring manager in your office, post your resume on job boards and reach out to your professional network.
  4. Speak to your current supervisor. Schedule a meeting with your boss or manager, and let them know why you want to make a lateral move. Share your thought processes, and make sure they know you are serious about making the change. Give them the opportunity to convince you to stay, but be sure to keep your own goals and interests in mind. If you discuss ways the supervisor or the business as a whole could improve, be tactful. You could need to work with the person in the future, and having an ally in the industry can be useful even if you are changing companies.
  5. Develop professionally. After you switch to a new job title or employer, it may take some time for you to adjust to your new role. Get to know your new supervisor and coworkers, develop your professional and personal skills, and adapt to any changes. Focus on doing your best so that you can get an even better job or a promotion later.

Searching for the correct lateral career move

Once you have decided whether you are interested in finding a new position, a new company or both, it is time to begin your job search. If you want to make a lateral career move within the same company, networking with your coworkers and supervisors is extremely important. A letter of recommendation from the right person could make you the first choice for the position you want. If you are applying for a role with a manager you know, talk to them about it and let them know why you would be ideal for the job.

If you would rather change companies, check local job boards. If you do not have some of the skills businesses are looking for, consider getting some additional training. Attend industry events to network with people at other organizations, and ask them if they enjoy working for their employer.


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