You have been working hard and it has been paying off at work - and you hope you might be in with a chance for a promotion. But when you are called into your manager’s office, you’re told about a lateral position that has opened up. It’s a similar title and pay grade, but it’s in a new part of the company with new projects and different colleagues.
It’s not a promotion, but it’s an interesting job and a welcome change, particularly as you’ve been in your job for several years. And although it can be frustrating to be overlooked for a well-deserved promotion, a sideways career move isn’t always a bad thing.
“A sideways career move is defined as an internal or external career move with a similar job title, pay and responsibility, rather than a direct move up,” says a spokesperson for Adzuna, a search engine for job advertisements. “There are many long-term benefits of a sideways career move and you need to consider the whole package before you make the change.”
Getting a promotion isn’t easy and it takes more than just hard work. The decision may be outside of your control too, for example, if there is no position to be promoted too or not enough money. A sideways career more provides room for growth, however, as well as a chance to learn new skills.
Read more: When to change your career or job?
“A lateral move can be a huge opportunity to broaden your knowledge, improve your skill set, increase your visibility in the workplace and open you up to a whole new network – mentors, colleagues, clients. This can in turn give you more marketability in the job market and give you a better chance to negotiate a better salary or promotion in the long run,” Adzuna says.
If you’ve been in the same job for a while it’s easy for things to become stale, but a lateral career move can freshen things up at work. New work, different projects and challenges can help keep your career interesting, which can help with engagement too.
There may be other perks too. “Short term benefits can also be a huge driver for some people, benefits such as working hours, flexibility, health insurance, telecommuting and company culture can all play a huge part in your job satisfaction, but it's worth taking some time to think about what you are looking for in both the short term and long run before making a decision,” they add.
A sideways move at work may also prepare you for a promotion in the future, particularly if you diversify your skillset.
“Sideways is always a good move. I've taken it myself, when I stepped away from my roles as engineering manager and business & technology strategy manager at BAE Systems, and into the role of managing director. Two completely different industries, but the skills and expertise I brought have made a real impact,” says Liz O'Driscoll, managing director at Exeter City Futures, an organisation seeking to empower communities, businesses, and government to move towards low carbon by 2030.
"I would always recommend a sideways move if you're looking to build new skills, or add variety and breadth to your CV. Few employers will consider it a disadvantage, and it may even help you stand out from the crowd."
There are some cons to a lateral career move, however. In some cases, it can mean more work for the same amount of pay, so it’s important to find out what will be expected of you before taking a different job.
At the end of the day, a sideways career move isn’t necessarily a traditional step up and it may be frustrating to start a new job without the financial reward. It may also mean waiting longer to get a promotion or a raise, particularly if you are learning new skills from scratch.