How to Make a Sideways Career Move the Right Move

Career Success is commonly portrayed as going upwards in a straight line, rather than using sideways career moves, as quickly as possible. This strategy means not seizing the quirky moves that can expand your skills and potentially, job satisfaction. “Sideways or lateral career moves" can broaden and deepen CVs and career enrichment.

What Is Horizontal Growth?


You stay in your same position with a different focus (a classic would be moving from or to a management role from a Subject Matter Expert role). The fundamental difference between this and vertical growth is how you create value. You expand your knowledge in your current role or take the same title in a different department. Listen to my podcast with Liz Walsh, where she discusses the validity of these sideways career moves.

With vertical progression we leverage our existing skills to go straight up the corporate ladder, possibly saddling us with additional managerial responsibilities along the way.


Contemplating a sideways move?


There can be downsides of expanding laterally in your job 


You’ll probably avoid the stereotypical ladder and ascend to new heights less rapidly. This breadth versus depth approach feels risky. You may worry that people will think you may lack motivation, grit, commitment.


What are the benefits of a sideways career move?


The benefits are you can stop stagnating and burning out, enhancing job security if it’s a flat structure. You can increase your visibility on high profile projects that you may not get to focus on if you are spending your time managing upwards. You can spend time “doing the stuff”. Personally, this is what I love.

Recently I negotiated a sideways move, where I moved away from day to day management and into a full-time recruiter role.

You can bloom where you are planted


I can definitely still accomplish things I hadn’t previously. I’m learning more facets of the HR function (assessment, integration). I get into higher profile projects; a women returners programme (my passion) and creatively approaching more senior recruitment. I have more time to stretch out and breathe in my job as it were. Candidly, I have more of the “control” that I refer to in my negotiation piece and that is important for the age and stage of my family.



I am still upping my profile thus ensuring I’m in the frame for future advancement. I have more time to go on training that will increase my value inside and outside the organisation. I have a much wider perspective of our organisation’s complexity so I have more opportunity to influence.


You can still be a valuable employee and not want promotion


Not everyone wants to live outside the CEO’s office and that is fine. Work out where you are most effective and don't compare. It can also a limiting path to take if you get a relatively narrow perspective on a business. You might say that vertical career growth requires us to know other people, whereas horizontal career growth requires us to know ourselves. 

I can breathe out


From my horizontal vantage point I can expand, breathe out as it were and avoid the inevitable focus on what I need to do to get ahead. This is so often the forced emphasis for the people that I interview!

When you make a smart, thoughtful move, reflective of what you enjoy doing, you can potentially be more satisfied and committed than if you’d followed the obvious road...and maybe ended up walking straight out the door!

Photo: Marvin Meyer/Unsplash

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