You have been working hard, tracking your accomplishments, and promoting your personal brand within your organization. These are all the right moves to obtain that promotion you know you deserve.
Instead of the promotion, however, your boss calls you in for a chat and tells you that the higher-ups are talking about you for a lateral position that just opened up, a position with the same or similar title and pay grade but in a different part of the organization.
Don't assume that a lateral move is a knock against you. In today's business environment, a lateral move or promotion can be better than a traditional promotion.
It's also possible that you're looking for a career change. Maybe you're an engineer who wants to move onto the operations side of the business. The best way to do that is to make a lateral move within your current organization.
Don't assume that a lateral move is a knock against you. In today's business environment, a lateral move or promotion can be better than a traditional promotion. The key is understanding the organization's corporate culture and whether it does indeed value its employees. The best-run organizations understand the value of their employees and want to retain the best workers — even if that means shuffling some people into new positions.
8 Pros of a Lateral Move
- Keep skills current and sharp. Let's face it. There aren't as many promotion opportunities as there were 20 to 30 years ago. But there is still pressure to stay competitive. A lateral move provides room for growth, learning opportunities, and increases visibility without leaving a great employer.
- Proactive career management. Don't wait around for that dream job to come your way. Actively seek it out. A move is a logical step in developing your career.
- Learn new things. This development may seem like a no-brainer, but don't overlook its importance. It is easy to become stale and keep doing the same thing. A lateral move versus promotion can introduce you to new learning opportunities without plunging you into a new corporate culture.
- Increase your visibility. The chance to take on challenging new projects offers an opportunity to shine. If your current role is missing those chances, you might want to consider a lateral move to help increase your visibility within the organization.
- Prepares you for promotion. A move can help prepare you for a promotion by helping you gain a broader knowledge of the organization.
- Gain self-awareness. Since a lateral move includes new learning opportunities and challenges, this career move can allow you to accomplish things you'd not been able to previously. This move can help introduce and shape a vision of your future.
- Build your brand. You know that diversification is key to success in just about anything. Diversifying your experience can help you to build your brand and make it stronger. Remember, you own your brand.
- Lighten your workload. Maybe you're being stretched beyond your limits in your current role. A lateral move can help reduce the stress of the job while allowing you to expand your skills set. A reduced workload does not necessarily mean an "easier" job, but it can mean a job that is more focused on results.
4 Cons of a Lateral Move
- More work, same pay. Increasing your workload for an equal or lower pay rate is a distinct possibility, so be sure you vet thoroughly before accepting a lateral move versus promotion.
- Perception. There may be some people in your organization who will look at you sideways for taking a lateral move. They might suspect that you lack motivation. You need to decide whether or not this is important to you.
- A professional side step. You're not on the traditional and expected trajectory upward. A lateral move, no matter what new things you'll learn and do, lacks the "cool" factor of a shiny new job. It may also lack the financial rewards of stepping up.
- Possible stagnation. There is a possibility that making a lateral move will impede your ability to make an upward move, at least in the short term.
If you're contemplating a lateral move — whether on your own or one suggested to you — schedule a talk with your current boss. It's possible your boss either does not know your ambitions or has a misconception about you or your situation. If you have a mentor within the organization, schedule a meeting with him/her as well. If you work for a company that tends to promote from within, a lateral move can help to fast-track you to your next promotion.