Lateral Move: How to Make One Without Hurting Your Career

In this guide, we explain what a lateral move is and how to make a lateral job move without damaging your professional future.

Switching up job positions is daunting for any young professional looking to develop their career through wise decision-making. Many workers are faced with the opportunity to make a lateral move, slightly altering their career trajectory and future with their company.

While lateral moves might sound tempting to some, others worry that it could damage their career in the long run or end up as a wrong decision. If you’re unsure whether a lateral move is wise for your career, you’re in the right place. This article will help you discover the ins and outs of lateral moves, why professionals might consider making a lateral move, and how to know if this sideways change will benefit your career.  

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What is a Lateral Move?

A lateral move is when you move from one job to another that is similar in nature but offers different responsibilities or opportunities. Not up, not down, just sideways. When an individual makes a lateral career move, they leave their current position for a job with similar responsibilities, a similar title, or a similar position. It is a way to gain experience, build your skills, and move up your career without starting from the bottom.

While some professionals make lateral movies within their current company (an internal lateral move), others may move to a new company and change employers entirely (an external lateral move). Lateral moves can be a great way to gain new experiences and learn new skills while significantly impacting your field of expertise. Making a lateral move can also help you increase your salary and job security.

Though a lateral job move is not the same as a promotion, it can still benefit your career in many ways and open up new opportunities for you. Regardless of the reason, a lateral move could be a wise choice if you weigh your options properly and make an informed decision.

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Why Make a Lateral Move?

A worker might make a lateral move for many reasons. While it might seem daunting or against your better judgment, a lateral move could massively benefit your career. Below are some top reasons people choose to make lateral moves to consider when facing this decision.

Gain Fresh Perspectives

Stepping away from a job you know well can open your eyes to new ideas and ways of doing things. A lateral move might help you find that you’re inspired to approach tasks differently and think outside the box.

Expand Your Network

Moving to a new team or company can allow you to meet and collaborate with a range of new contacts. This can help you to build valuable relationships and create potential opportunities for the future.

Increase Your Earning Potential

Taking on a new role may mean that you’re able to negotiate a higher salary to go along with your new job title. It’s also possible that you’ll be able to secure bonuses or other incentives for taking on a new position.

Re-energize Your Career

Making a lateral move can help to reignite your passion for your chosen profession. You’ll be able to take on a different set of challenges and enjoy the satisfaction of mastering them.

Sharpen Your Problem-Solving Abilities

If you’re looking to hone your problem-solving skills, making a lateral move is an ideal way to do it. You’ll be able to observe how others approach new challenges and learn from their approaches.

Improve Your Job Satisfaction

If you’re feeling stale or unfulfilled at your current job, a lateral move can help to improve your job satisfaction. You’ll be able to take on new tasks, collaborate with different people or departments, and build your skillset.

Increase Your Visibility

Making a lateral move can help to raise your profile within your industry. You’ll be able to demonstrate your expertise and your willingness to take on new challenges and develop your skills.

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How to Know When a Lateral Career Move is Right

Making a lateral move can be a great way to boost your career and open up new opportunities, but it’s essential to make sure it’s the right decision for you. Below are five tips to help you understand how to make a lateral move at a job.

1. Consider Your Skills

A lateral career move is when you switch to a job similar to your current one. Before making a move, consider if the job will allow you to use the skills you have or allow you to develop new ones. A lateral move could offer you the chance to hone in on different skills and gain experience in a job area you may not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.

2. Consider Your Motivation

It’s essential to consider what’s motivating your decision to make an internal or external lateral career move. Is it for a higher salary or better benefits? More responsibility? Or just for changing employers or exploring a new field? Your motivation for making a move will help you decide if it’s the right move for you.

3. Consider Your Goals

Think about your long-term career goals and if a lateral move will help you get closer to achieving them. If you’re looking to move up in your current field, a lateral move could help you gain experience in a new area and open up opportunities for advancement. On the other hand, a lateral move might not be the right move if you’re looking to make a complete career change.

4. Consider the Company’s Culture 

Before moving, it’s essential to consider the company culture. Are values important to you? Are you hoping to work in a culture and environment that supports a particular lifestyle or beliefs? The company culture can have a massive impact on your job satisfaction, so make sure you research and get a feel for the company you’re considering before moving.

5. Consider Your Personal Life

Your personal life should be considered when making any career decision, including a lateral move. If you’re considering moving to a different city, consider how it will impact your lifestyle and the cost of living. If you have a family, consider how the move will affect them and if the new job will give you the flexibility you need to be there for them.

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Steps to Take

Making a lateral job move can be completed in a few steps, and the following actions can help you achieve a successful job move.

  1. Self-examine: Begin the process by thinking about what you want to achieve with a lateral move. If you are dissatisfied with your current position, consider the pros of moving to a new position and whether it will bring more satisfaction.
  2. Set goals: Write down your requirements and goals for this new position, such as the salary and benefits you expect.
  3. Speak to your supervisor: Schedule a meeting to discuss your decision, thought process, and interests.
  4. Find a new job: Depending on your goals, seek new positions within or outside your current company. Speak to your hiring manager or others in your professional network about possible opportunities.
  5. Develop professionally: As you adjust to your new position, take opportunities for further career development and adapt to this new environment.

How to Make a Lateral Move Without Damaging Your Future

Making a lateral career move can be risky if you aren’t careful. Understanding the implications of a lateral move is essential to make the most of it while avoiding damaging your professional future.

There are a few critical points to consider when deciding whether to make a lateral career move. The first is to understand the company culture. Each company is different, and its culture will affect how you fit in and how you can progress.

Second, consider the job role you’re moving into. A lateral job move can be an excellent opportunity to gain new skills, but ensuring the role is appropriate for your experience and interests is essential. Educate yourself on the role’s expectations and clearly understand what is expected from you. By taking a role that you aren’t prepared to handle, a lateral move can negatively impact your career trajectory.

Third, consider the longer-term implications of the move. Make sure you understand the career path that you’re taking and how it might affect future opportunities. Always take the time to review your options and ensure the move is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do your research to make sure the move is the best decision for you.

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Making a lateral move can be a great way to boost your career and open up new opportunities. However, it’s essential to make the right decision for you and understand how to know when a lateral career move is right. Consider your goals, assess your skills, research, get feedback, and talk to your manager. When ready to move, network with other professionals, update your resume, brush up on your interview skills, and negotiate for the best package. With the proper preparation and research, a lateral move can be a great way to advance your career.

If you’re a young professional looking to make a lateral move or find a career that’s right for you, Goodwall can help. At Goodwall, we connect young professionals to suitable jobs, scholarships, and skills to help them make an impact in their chosen fields. Check out more of our career advice to move forward in a career path you love.

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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