You can get ahead at work by moving sideways instead of up. Most employees aren’t willing to move into a different department or group unless they are making more money or have a fancier title and they are really missing out. In a new study I did with American Express, we found that 73 percent of managers are very willing or extremely willing to support employees who want to move within the corporation but only 48 percent of employees are either very interested or extremely interested in making the move. I recommend that you try a lateral move so that you can position yourself for major leadership positions later. It helps you build a strong foundation that you can grow on. Here are six reasons why you should make a lateral career move:
1. They help you build your network. By shifting from one group to the next, you are putting yourself in a position to meet new people and make connections that you can leverage for career advancement. You can also use the people you worked with in your old group to help you accomplish your goals and gain access to resources that will make you more valuable in your new position.
2. They help you broaden your skills. When you’re in a new group, you will probably need a new set of skills to help you accomplish your new responsibilities. For instance, if you’re in a PR role and you’re transitioning into an Internet marketing role, you’re going to have to understand how to leverage social media, email and websites in order to be successful. The new role will force you to become an expert in a new area.
3. They give you a fresh experience. If you don’t get along with your manager or co-workers or find work dull, a lateral move can give you a fresh start. Switching to a new boss can be great for your career because you might get along with them better and they might serve as your mentor and advisor throughout your career. You can also learn a lot from a new boss, who has their own experiences and connections you can draw from.
4. They help you get a promotion. If you want to be a manager, it’s important to have experience in many aspects of a business. If all you do is work in similar positions, your experience is too narrow and limited and you won’t be prepared for a management position that requires more skills and authority. Moving to another group can help you be prepared for that next level up in your career and if you don’t move around, then you will be inexperienced and you won’t have the network to support you at the higher levels.
5. They help you better align your strengths to your job. If you feel that you can’t fully use your natural skills to drive business results in your current group, then a lateral move could help you take advantage of them. Professionals who focus on their strengths are much more effective, efficient and successful. For instance, if you’re a really good programmer but work in HR, your company will be missing out on what you could be doing in the engineering department.
6. They save you from a bad situation. If you’re in an under-performing group, a group that you think is going to be downsized or a toxic group where no one gets along, a lateral move will get you out of that situation. This is especially true if you like your company but know that your group is inevitably doomed and you don’t want to go down with it.