The Wisdom of a Lateral Move in Your Career
Very few employees adequately understand the functions of departments other than their own. For that reason, a lateral move can be good for both the employee and the organization.
A lateral move is one in which the employee moves from one area of an organization to another, usually at the same salary, and with different but similar responsibilities. The move can be within a given organization or to a new organization. Often, the employee’s title remains the same in the new position.
Not surprisingly, many employees don’t view a lateral move as a step in the right direction. A career ladder, after all, is typically depicted as going upward, not sideways. Yet the skills learned in the new position can broaden one’s capabilities and expand the number of opportunities to advance.
In fact, in some instances, a lateral move can keep you from getting trapped in a position where your skills are so valued that your manager doesn’t want to let you go. And if your current position simply isn’t working out—say, you and your boss don’t get along—and you’re not up for promotion, a lateral move may provide the way out.
Certainly, there are both positives and negatives associated with a lateral move. On the positive side, the move offers professional development, improved job security, increased marketability, and the opportunity to work with new individuals and teams. Moving laterally can increase your visibility and help you be seen as a potential candidate for moving on up. A lateral move might even get you on the fast track to a high-level position because you’ll become schooled and skilled in more aspects of the organization’s functioning.
The chief negative of a lateral move is that it’s, well, lateral. It’s not another rung on the career ladder. It’s the same salary. It’s similar responsibilities. People who move laterally are sometimes seen as not having what it takes to be promoted. And of course, there’s the learning curve. Similar though the new responsibilities may be, they’re not identical, and there’s likely to be an adjustment period. A lateral move may not be as challenging as an upward move, but it can be a stretch nevertheless.
If you’re offered a lateral move or are considering one, don’t get hung up on the unchanged title and salary; instead, consider the potential long-term benefits. Think about the skills you’ll gain, the new boss you’ll learn from, and the prospects the new position may eventually offer for an upward move that you may not have qualified for otherwise.