They say you can’t step into the same river twice. The river, and the person, is constantly changing and moving. Such is the way with work. The job market is constantly changing in nature and tone, but at the end of the day, a river is a river, and a job is a job.

No matter how the career landscape changes, we will want to make positive steps forward to better our careers. But what if that next step to forwarding your career wasn’t forward at all? What if your best next move was to the side?

What Are Lateral Moves?

At its simplest, a lateral career move means taking a new job at the same pay grade or organizational level. It involves taking on new duties and responsibilities, usually — but not exclusively — at the same company. You wll find that these fluid opportunities are most common at start-ups, but we can expect them to become more common at established companies in the very near future.

Lateral career moves can be curious and exciting: Haven’t you been curious about trying someone else’s job? Have you never observed the social media team or the sales crew and thought you would thrive in their shoes? Lateral moves liberate us from the idea that once we enter into a career, we need to trudge away at it forever. It allows us to experiment with our career paths so that we can identify our purpose and goals.

Why Lateral Moves Are Beneficial

They’re Fun!

Firstly, lateral moves can be beneficial because they are fun: They are appealing to people who like learning new things. People who get joy from building new skills and mastering new experiences will find lateral moves exciting and worthwhile. Ultimately, lateral moves are intrinsically rewarding to those who yearn to be challenged.

They Make You More Employable

Moving on to more pragmatic reasons, lateral moves will make you stand out to future employers. It makes perfect sense: If you have more skills, you’re of more value. What’s more, it’s easy for job seekers to say they can do X, Y and Z in a cover letter, but with a lateral move under your belt, you have concrete evidence to back it up in an interview and, more importantly, on the job.

They Will Impress Your Current Company 

Lateral moves will also reflect well on you to your current employees and colleagues. It will show that you’re willing to try new things and that you are keen to develop yourself. These transitions across your company will also strengthen your network across the organization.

They Make For Better Managers

This networking is great for making new friends at work, but it also strengthens your case for a promotion (i.e., vertical movement) when the time comes. Who better for management than someone who already knows how the other departments work?

They Increase Job Security

Lateral moves also give you greater job security at your current place of work. They will endear yourself to your company and help show your value. If cuts have to be made, management will be more likely to keep an employee with knowledge and skills across the enterprise.

They Could Reduce Burnout

Finally, a lateral move could be a unique solution to burnout, which is all too common in the modern workplace. A change of scenery could be a great remedy to fix a rut in your professional life.

They Suit Your Boss, Too

Dietrich Moens, chief executive officer of Spacehuntr, a corporate event solutions provider, thinks of lateral moves as cross-pollination. “I’ve found that when members of our team switch departments, it breaks down roadblocks,” Moens says. “They’re greater for productivity and even opened the way for innovation in our work processes. It’s a sort of beautiful cross-pollination.” What’s more, it could even save your boss money. Hiring for a new position takes up time, resources and energy. You can minimize that by hiring from within.

Additionally, Moens says, “We’ve seen that lateral moves have made for better managers. When you’ve lived in someone else’s shoes, you become more understanding. These workers are better at recognizing, understanding and resolving friction. It’s remarkable.”

Lastly, make for a more skilled worker, and if that’s not good for bosses, what is?

Top Training Tips For Making Lateral Moves Work

So far, it’s been a case of easier said than done. But how do you make a lateral career move work in practice? Consider the five-step plan below to ensure your lateral move is successful.

  1. Self-examine: The first step is some self-examination. Why are you looking for a lateral move? Understanding this desire is the best way to figure out how to motivate yourself and focus your efforts.
  2. Speak to Your Manager(s): Open communication with your team and your manager(s) is essential. Your manager needs to endorse and support what you’re doing fully. After that, their support and advice could and should be invaluable to you.
  3. Set Goals: After speaking to your manager, it’s time to set goals. For how long are you going to be in this new position? What level of competence do you hope to achieve? How steep should your learning curve be? 
  4. Mutual Learning: Your company might not have the time or the resources for you to take time away from the job to learn. Try to work training into your daily routine so that you can learn while completing your responsibilities and tasks.
  5. Review: As in all areas of working life, you need to self-review, be peer-reviewed, and receive a performance review. Reviews, done properly, help us grow and serve as rewards for our hard work.

You only need to listen to the stories of successful people themselves to see that there’s more than one way to succeed. Ultimately, the path to the top is littered with failures, surprises, and seizing chances when they come your way. Maybe a lateral move could be the career opportunity you have been looking for?