6 Reasons To Make A Lateral Career Move

By Tisa Silver | January 19, 2010 AAA

If you are not moving up, then why move? When moving up is not an option, a strategic sideways move can put you in a more advantageous position. Whether you move to another employer or to another department within the same company, there are several reasons why a lateral move could be a good one.

  1. Future Advancement
    If your prospects for a promotion don't look so good with your current employer, then a lateral move could set you up for a future climb. Intense competition or a flatter organizational structure may make it difficult to get a promotion in your current position.

    The lateral move can provide you with more industry contacts and additional skills, both of which can come in handy if or when a job opening appears at a higher level. (Ditch your ego, prove that you'll work hard and don't settle for the wrong company. Check out Trying On Potential Employers.)

  2. Money: Make The Same, Take Home More
    Your new position may be at the same pay grade, but the new job could increase your bottom line in other ways. For instance, when a job change moves your office closer to home, you may realize cost savings in the form of a shorter commute or cheaper parking. Relocating for a lateral move could land you in an area with an overall lower cost of living, and the new employer may even provide for relocation expenses.

  3. Better Benefits
    Instead of focusing on the take-home pay, examine your total compensation package. Examine the benefits offered by the new employer such as insurance (medical, dental and vision), retirement plans and flexible spending accounts (FSA) to determine if the non-monetary compensation will place you in a position with better benefits.

    Other perks to consider may include on-site childcare, dining, tuition assistance or the opportunity to telecommute. (Focusing on salary may be a mistake. Find out which benefits have the highest long-run payoff in Job Hunting: Higher Pay Vs. Better Benefits.)

  4. More In Line With Your Goals
    With a lateral move, you may perform some of the same functions, but for a company whose mission is more in line with your desired career path. For example, working in the accounting department of a huge financial firm will undoubtedly differ from working in the accounting department of a university or a government agency.

    If the mission of your employer is more in line with your values, then a lateral move may provide a morale boost even if it does not offer a financial one.

  5. New Skills Or Varied Experience
    The new job may offer a similar title and a similar salary, but it could provide you with a new set of skills or learning opportunities. As employers move to leaner settings, the more skills you have the better. The varied experience will make you more marketable should the opportunity for a promotion arise, or for the next time you may need to explore a career move. The added skills can also protect you from being at the top of the list when it is time for a cut.

  6. Get Out Before You Get Let Go
    Whether it's called downsizing, right-sizing or getting laid off, it's hard to find the bright side of having your position eliminated. A lateral move may be a great option to explore when your current position or your company may be in jeopardy. A preemptive move can keep you from having to deal with the hardship of losing your income or being unemployed.

    In terms of future employment, getting out first can prevent you from having to explain being let go or having a large window of unemployed time on your resume. When faced with these potential consequences, the same job in a new environment may be better than no job at all. (In a recession, financial industry personnel are often hit hard. Find out how to avoid getting the ax in Top 6 Ways To Recession-Proof Your Job.)

The Bottom Line
A lateral move may not be considered the most ideal one, but it could prove to be worthwhile. Only you know your personal and professional circumstances, so evaluate them carefully before you make any move - lateral or otherwise.

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