Sometimes, your career does not move forward. Maybe you're ready for a promotion, but there's no opening at your company and you have not succeeded in making the move to someplace else.
Many people are wary of making a lateral move. It feels a bit like failure, or just a change for change's sake. But such a move isn't always a bad thing; sometimes it can reignite your career and put you back on the path to where you want to go.
Here are three cases where it makes sense to move laterally.
1. You'll learn new skills
Maybe you are a manager who wants to move to director, or whatever title your company gives to the next level. If you get the opportunity to make a move within the manager level where you will be gaining new skills, that's not a bad idea.
Upper-level managers often supervise people who do different things. If you master multiple skills that will fall under the leadership of a top-tier manager, you make yourself more attractive to fill that position someday.
2. Your new company has more opportunities
In some cases, you deserve a promotion, but your company has no opening. Your boss may offer you a raise and a somewhat meaningless title change (now, your "senior manager"), but that does not change the fact that your path is blocked.
If you find yourself in this scenario, it's reasonable to make a lateral move to a bigger company where you can expect to have more promotion opportunities. It's OK to discuss this as part of the job-offer process -- it doesn't mean you will take the job and immediately start pushing for a promotion. Instead, before you say yes to the job, you can discuss where you hope your career will go, and what it will take to get there.
3. Your new company really wants you
Your current employer may take you for granted. Even worse, your company may be happy with you in your current job and won't even consider that you may want more out of your career.
If a new company courts you with more money and more respect, it's reasonable to make a lateral move. Being valued is important, and while it's never smart to move out of spite, you're only human to want to go someplace that really wants you.
Think of your career
While the title, salary, and benefits may be the same, that does not mean a lateral move isn't advancing your career. Examine lateral job offers by more than just those things. Think about how you would explain the move in a future job interview.
If you can honestly justify why you made a lateral move, then it's probably smart to take the job. "I really needed a change" may not play well as an interview answer. "I made the move so I could add customer relations to my skill set" sounds a lot better.
Lateral moves can still push your career forward. You just need a plan and to understand why you're doing what you're doing.
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