5 Reasons to Make a Lateral Career Move

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By Vicki Salemi

If you're vying for that next position, which leads you closer to the corner office, more challenging responsibilities and (let's face it) a bigger paycheck, you're not alone.

But what happens when the smartest move at the moment may actually be lateral? Will that move delay your ascent to further greatness, leave you stuck in a rut or look stalled on your résumé? Au contraire.

1. You'll move across the corporate lattice. If you mastered your job a long time ago, the writing is on the wall: It's time to move onward and upward. Where do you want to be in your next role and the one after that? How are you going to get there?

In many instances, moving onward and upward doesn't necessarily mean you have to literally move up. A new challenge can be waiting right around the bend. It's a career lattice at most times and not necessarily a quintessential ladder. Sometimes the best way to better position yourself is to make a move over so then you can ascend from there.

2. It's a relocation strategy. If you're looking to relocate, a lateral move could be the way to go. By pursuing another position at the same level, you could get from Point A to Point B without having to navigate the additional stress of a new job, boss and employer. In fact, stability and familiarity can potentially help ease the transition to a new location.

When you're looking to physically move from one location to another, particularly at your own financial cost, a career trajectory may not necessarily be the priority at the moment. And that's completely OK.

3. You'll gain new skills and perspectives. Let's say you work in human resources as a manager, but there's a managerial opening within operations. You've had some informal discussions with that team's group director, and it's sounding pretty enticing. You like the company, but you're beginning to feel a little too comfortable in your current role while not yet ready to look externally. Translation: You're bored. The next level up within HR has been occupied by a director for the past 10 years, and she's not going anywhere. Whatever the reasons are for your current situation, that new position is starting to sound intriguing, right?

Maybe you just need a change, otherwise you wouldn't be contemplating exploring a new role anyway. Maybe operations will give you access to executives within areas of the organization you don't currently have access to. Maybe you'll get to manage external vendors and frequently negotiate – a skill you normally don't get to utilize. And maybe the position above this one is vacant, so you may be recognized for a swift promotion after proving yourself in the new role.

4. It's the nearest exit to a possibly bad current situation. Bad boss? Check. Horrible commute? Ingratiating, disrespectful coworkers? Check and check. When your current situation is so atrocious you'd do anything to move on, take a deep breath.

Moving internally isn't a move of desperation, but when all else fails – as in, you've had your last straw and you're deeply embedded in an external search that is taking a lot of time and not yielding tangible results – it will at least provide a new beginning with the anchor of familiarity firmly rooted.

If you're well versed in the company culture and know the acronyms inside and out, perhaps a new position has a generous telecommute policy based on the role. Maybe the boss is less of a micromanager. There could be a variety of reasons to make the move. And while it's typically recommended to move toward a new role out of aspirations for it – not as a diversion or shift to the nearest exit route – exceptions apply. This is one of them.

5. The new role would make you hungry again. Have you ever read a job description and discovered a dormant spark inside of you, finally getting reignited? It's that certain je ne sais quoi that sounds exciting, new and different.

Making the move internally could be the ultimate way to go for now. If it was external, perhaps you would have to sell yourself more to a recruiter to stretch your skills to show how they're applicable. Well, internally you already have a track record and easily accessible performance reviews. If the position sounds interesting, go for it!

If you're learning new skills and applying them into a role that makes you happier, isn't that what it's all about anyway? According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of Americans are disengaged on their job. Why not consciously decide you want to be among the 30 percent?

Finding and achieving satisfaction on the job while flexing your valuable skills should be the goal on a daily basis. If an internal position sounds interesting and can add value to your arsenal (and of course, your résumé), there's definitely nothing wrong with that. And technically, it's your career after all, so who is anyone else to judge?
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