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Making a Lateral Career Move: When to Pursue it and How to Succeed

3) When Not to Make a Lateral Move

Sometimes, transitioning to a similar role in a new department or company might not be an ideal choice for your career. Here are a few examples of when you should avoid making a lateral move.

When Unhappy With Your Job

If you are considering a lateral move because you are unhappy with your current job, it might not be the best solution. While the move might provide a temporary respite from the monotony of your work, it won’t change your overall job satisfaction.

It might even exacerbate it, leading to yet another job change in the near future. Instead, its important to identify the root cause of the problem and address it accordingly.

Whether it’s a lack of challenge, dissatisfaction with your companys culture, or a problematic boss, try talking to HR or a trusted professional to find a resolution that works best for you.

When the Move Is a Setback for Your Career

If the lateral move does not align with your career goals, it may not be worth doing. A new job might delay your aspirations of landing your dream job or could even hinder your career progression.

Although you might acquire new skills, the move might not contribute to your long-term career objectives. Before taking on a lateral move, its important to consider what you want to achieve in the long run and whether the move will help you achieve those goals.

When You’ve Made Too Many Lateral Moves

If you’ve been making lateral moves without seeing any significant benefits, it might be time to rethink your strategy. If after every lateral move, you find yourself stuck in the same position with no career progression, it could prove to be a poor career choice.

Multiple lateral moves can lead to career stagnation and could be a sign that you need to evaluate your overall career path and make clear decisions on your desired trajectory.

When You Will Take a Pay Cut

Changing jobs can be stressful, particularly when it comes to making a lateral move. If this move requires taking a pay cut, it is vital to consider whether this will have a significant impact on your life and mental health, especially when you have financial obligations.

Taking a lesser salary might not be ideal unless the new role offers other significant benefits, such as improved work-life balance or better job reinforcement. In some instances, you may need to weight pros and cons of taking a pay cut, so you can steer yourself towards the right career choice.

When the New Role Is Too Far from Your Ultimate Goal

Although a lateral move can sometimes provide an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and experience a different work environment, it could also veer you off the path towards your ultimate career goal. Before taking that lateral job, ensure that it aligns with your overall career objective while considering the future implications of staying too long in a role that doesn’t align with your vision.

4) How to Make a Lateral Move

Making a lateral move in your career can be a pivotal decision, but if done for the right reasons, it can lead to a positive change. Here are some tips to make your lateral move a successful one.

Identify Your Needs

Firstly, consider your career aspirations and goals. What is it that you want to achieve in your career?

Determine the skills, experience, and job responsibilities that will help you realize your vision. Are you seeking a better quality of life, or is it a desire for more challenging work that drives you?

Identify clear career objectives and how the lateral move can contribute to helping you reach those goals.


Once you have identified your interests and career goals, embark on research to map out your new job prospects. Look for job postings in your current company or those outside of it.

Not only will you be able to uncover new role opportunities, but you will also have a better knowledge of the current market expectations.

Talk to Your Boss

Communicating with your immediate supervisor is essential so that they can be aware of your career objectives. Your manager may be able to provide guidance and support in your pursuit of a lateral move.

They can give feedback based on whether they think the new role suits you or provide input that could be valuable in your retention. In doing so, you may even earn support in gaining access to internal job openings that align with your objectives.

Start Applying

When you start looking, apply for the roles that meet your criteria. Ensure your resume and cover letter are updated to highlight your experience, skillset necessary, and your ambitions.

You can also reach out to your network for referrals. Maintaining positive relationships with former colleagues and classmates who now work in a similar field might make a difference as you explore opportunities.

Assess the Change

Once you have made the move, give yourself time to adjust and understand your new work environment. Take advantage of all offered training opportunities, cooperative activities, or mentorship programs.

Evaluate your job satisfaction and growth trajectory regularly. If things are not meeting your expectations, talk to your manager for feedback so that you can adjust and fulfill the expectations tied to your switch.

In summary, making a lateral move in your career can provide valuable opportunities to learn new skills and advance your career aspirations, but it’s crucial to consider carefully the reasons for doing so. Avoid making a lateral move if it does not align with your long-term goals, or if the move is accompanied by a pay cut or follows too many previous ones.

Key steps to successfully making a lateral move include evaluating your career aspirations and goals, researching potential job opportunities, communicating with your supervisor, applying for relevant roles, and assessing your satisfaction with the move. A thoughtful approach can help ensure a successful outcome, helping you achieve your desired career trajectory.

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