A lateral career move may not sound too appealing to most professionals. It’s a move where you go from one organization to another without an increase in salary, responsibility, or title. This sounds unappealing for very obvious reasons. There’s no sense of progress. It doesn’t necessarily look great on your resume. And you may feel like you’ll be starting from scratch.

But a lateral move can be highly beneficial for your career under the right circumstances. Here are a few hints that this type of move may be right for you.

You’ve stopped learning

Part of climbing to the next rung on the professional ladder is learning the new skills and acquiring the traits necessary to get there. Whether you’re an entry-level professional looking to move up to a more senior role, or a mid-level professional looking to obtain managerial responsibilities, your progress can be severely stalled if you simply stop learning at your job.

When your job is monotonous on a day to day basis and you don’t have the opportunity to partake in unique projects that challenge you and force you to evolve, you just might need to make a lateral move. Because there’s a good chance that you’re at an organization where you’ll take much longer to learn the skills needed for a promotion than you expected. In fact, if it’s a bad enough situation, you may never learn those skills at all.

If this is the case, it’s important that you seek options that will give you the opportunity to learn and grow. Because moving up the ladder doesn’t happen without a concerted effort on your part, and it doesn’t happen without an employer that gives you opportunities. Finding a lateral role at a company willing to invest more heavily into your professional development is a great way to put your career back on track.

You’re caught in a toxic mess

From an unfair manager that targets you despite your best efforts to a team that doesn’t complete its work to a company that doesn’t have a clear focus on its future outlook, there are plenty of ways you might be caught up in a complete mess. And a mess like that can have a severe negative impact on your career progression. Sticking around and suffering through the toxicity of your employer and your work environment will stunt your growth potential.

Making a lateral move is logical in this situation. Continuing to work at a company where you’re dealing more often with the fallout of workplace politics than progressing on a project is a sign that you’re not going to go very far there. Moving to a company that has a synergy among its employees and clear and present leadership that guides the team forward is a great way to get away from toxicity.

That move often has to be lateral because you simply haven’t gotten the advancement opportunities you expected at your current employer. But it’s still a smart move because it takes you away from an environment where you’ll be dragged down by the toxic behavior of your co-workers.


You’re in someone else’s shadow

Sometimes this happens as an unfortunate side effect of poor hiring practice. You get hired at a company that promises you a certain level of responsibility, only to find yourself getting passed by on new and interesting tasks, great learning opportunities, and chances to take a leadership role in specific projects.

If this happens, chances are you’re in the career path of another person at the company, and you’re standing in their shadow. The result is that they get all the work and opportunities that you expected for yourself. They move forward and advance in their career while you’re left stagnating. Being in this situation is a bad deal. Staying in this situation is a big mistake.

So make the lateral move to another company where you won’t be a backup in the role. That way you’ll get to actually put out results, make progress, and show your value. You won’t have to worry about getting passed up for promotions, raises, and bonuses because of another person at the company. Instead, you can focus entirely on striving for rewards for your own output.

You’re in the wrong culture

Hiring mistakes happen on both ends of the table. Sometimes hiring managers hire someone who clearly doesn’t fit into their company’s culture. Sometimes candidates decide to join a company that clearly doesn’t fit their personality. This mistake may seem like it’s not that big a deal, but it can quickly become a major point of unhappiness at work.

You may find yourself clashing with the work style of your boss. You may find yourself arguing with your co-workers regularly. You may just be unhappy with the way others in your company derive motivation. For example, you may prefer to work in a highly competitive office, but you joined a company that values collaboration.

If you’re in the wrong company culture and just aren’t happy at your job, it can have a negative effect on your work and productivity. You may just fail to motivate yourself to go into work every day. Getting up in the morning may be more of a slog than you expected. You might feel little to no drive to go above and beyond what is asked of you.

In this situation, it’s on you to realize that you joined a company with the wrong culture for you. Because it’s better to make the decision to make a lateral move to a company you’ll love rather than wait for your manager to realize they also made a mistake in hiring you. It looks a lot better when you’re job seeking while already employed, rather than having to explain away why you were let go at your old job.

A lateral career move isn’t career suicide. It’s a smart shift that will open up opportunities that you aren’t currently getting at your job. But remember that even if you do make a lateral move successfully, it’s your own responsibility to take advantage of the new opportunities you’ve obtained. Because making a lateral move without then benefiting from it will end up reflecting poorly on your resume.

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