5 Reasons to Make a Lateral Move

Posted September 10, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves
We’ve talked about the career lattice, and more recently we told you about Sheryl Sandberg calling careers a jungle gym. But no matter the analogy, the truth is, the ladder conversation….is out.

The Glass Hammer scored an exclusive interview with Joanne Cleaver, author of the new book The Career Lattice: Combat Brain Drain, Improve Company Culture, and Attract Top Talent. She tells them:

The fact of the matter is, even at top levels,  execs-in-waiting often rotate among several lateral moves before taking a final step up. A continuous progression upward on the career ladder is less common than it used to be, in part due to economic realities—so some women are opting to build their careers by stretching the ladder sideways or diagonally into a more flexible career lattice.

That’s the interesting thing about climbing the ladder – or lattice – or jungle gym. Once you get right up next to the top, it’s often tough to ascend to the highest levels. You have to rotate in and out, you have to take lateral moves. This is common not just at the top but in all levels of your career. Sometimes a lateral move is the right move – to a new company, to a new field or area of expertise, to a new kind of work environment. Making these kinds of “no bigger title, no bigger salary” moves might look foolish to some. But The Glass Hammer and Ms. Cleaver contend they can actually catapult your career. And we here at Career Girl agree.

I’ve personally made one very strategic lateral move in my career. I was working for a nonprofit at a middle-management level and left that job to take another job with similar pay and a similar title at another nonprofit organization. I’ll tell you why I did it and what I gained from that experience.

  1. Lateral doesn’t mean same. While my job title and pay grade were similar when I made the swtich, I knew based on interviews and the job description that my focus would be quite different. I went from one marketing and fundraising job where my concentration was events to another marketing and fundraising job where my concentration would be online media and individual gifts. I did some of all of these things in both positions, but I knew that making the move would give me more leadership experience in one area that I didn’t have yet.
  2. Who are you learning from? Getting ahead in your career depends heavily on who you are positioned under in the hierarchy and who you are able to learn from. Having spent over two years in job A, I felt confident that I had learned a significant amount from that organization’s leadership style and wanted to learn from another. Much of the reason I left was simply to work for my boss at job B. I never looked back, and she ended up being the best boss I’ve ever had.
  3. A little money is better than miniscule money. I knew that in the depths of economic recession, I wasn’t going to get more than a “cost of living” raise at job #1. And while my move didn’t get me a huge raise, it was about 10%, which made a difference in my checkbook. Sometimes we think that moving jobs requires a huge jump in pay. But even an extra $100-200 will make a difference in your happiness and financial security.
  4. Different kinds of companies. Sure, working for one company and rising your way to the top is one path to success. But working for multiple different kinds of companies – ones that run finances differently, leadership differently, etc. can make you stronger and more well rounded.
  5. Build your resume. I would never have gotten a job after job B if I hadn’t made the lateral move. It built my resume, added to the number of references and connections I had overall, and made me a stronger candidate. Sometimes more experience in varied ways is better than longer experience in one position.

So go ahead, take that lateral move. It might just become your catapult!


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."