What is a lateral move?

One scenario job searchers encounter is an opportunity for a lateral move. For many people, the definition of a lateral move is a job that pays equivalent pay but with a different scope of responsibilities. An example of a lateral move would be moving from a call center representative to a call center quality representative. Another example is going from a bank teller inside the branch to a bank teller who is working drive through banking only. The roles pay similar but offer different experiences.

Many people only consider pay when they think of lateral moves. However, lateral moves are a very strategic way to gain more experience on your career path and prepare you for another role. To best leverage them you need to have a general idea of what you want to do at least five years in the future. You don’t need to be specific at first, but you need a general idea. If you do know specifics, that is great, but don’t stress about it.

Let’s say your goal is to become a senior leader. That’s a pretty general job description, but it’s a place to start. Based on the requirements for the job titles you have researched, you need at least 2 years of experience managing budgets, and 3 years of experience managing people. Because you don’t have experience in either, you decide to take on a project management role for a couple of years just to get the budget management experience to qualify for the senior leader role. You also need people management experience, so you may go from project manager to supervisor to get the people management experience. Once you have gained your experience, now you can start to determine how you can transfer the skills you have learned through your lateral and upward career moves to other industries.

In this scenario, your goal was to be a senior leader. Let’s assume that your project management role was in the hospitality industry, and your supervisor role was in a customer service call center. Both industries are customer focused industries. You can now take your experience in both and apply for a job as a manager or director in another people focused industry, such as a non-profit. You’ll stay in that role for a couple of years until you have gathered the knowledge, experience and minimum requirements to qualify for the senior leader role.

Lateral moves are sometimes turned down because the pay is similar to the current role. It’s important to plan and think in the long term. Remember that any experience you gain over your career accumulates and makes you a more qualified candidate than other applicants.



Many people think the path to career success is gradually up, but sometimes it’s up, lateral, and even down, depending on the goals and the experience you need.


Check out my other blog posts.

Career Selection: What to do when you don't know what you want to do

Becoming a Top Performer at Work

Interviewing: Being Yout Authentic Self

Burnout: My Story and Suggestions for Prevention

Is a Side Hustle Worth It?

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