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How to make the most of a lateral career move

Aug 16, 2018

While some people may think a lateral move isn’t productive for their career, Louise Molloy argues it can be a great alternative opportunity for career progression.

In these competitive times, companies look to fill vacancies internally where possible. From an organisational perspective, the capability to redeploy resources and offer lateral moves is a proven talent retention strategy. Internal promotions are hard fought. As such, lateral moves can provide a strategically ambitious employee an alternative opportunity to achieve career progression. Here’s how to make the most of a lateral move:

  1. Project the right attitude. If the move is one you haven’t sought, once you commit, commit. It shows organisational maturity to move past emotion and commit to the task at hand. This is noticed by everyone. It also demonstrates resilience – which can be referenced in future interviews.
  2. Master the basics. Get to grips with the basic requirements of your role. Actively seek feedback on your contribution and any development areas. Be very clear that you are fulfilling key requirements before investing in any ‘off piste’ initiatives.
  3. Tangalise your efforts and how they might contribute to the business (not yourself!). Updates should be focused on business benefit – not on your effort. Make it easy for your line manager to grasp and communicate the success of any initiative by equipping them with key facts and sound bites. Numbers get attention – units filled; hours saved; new customers won.
  4. Build networks. Express your commitment to understanding the business and maximising your contribution by meeting key stakeholders and customers and leveraging existing relationships. Help new colleagues and your new boss widen their network. Gain their support for any ideas to raise the profile of the unit. Information sharing is key. It doesn’t need to be purposeful but it may be facilitating a conversation to explore possible opportunities to work together. Everyone wants to widen their network – why not be the person who makes that happen?
  5. Hone your organisation awareness. Be sensible on interactions you have with senior members, and ask your line manager’s advice on how best to do so. Don’t be fooled into thinking meeting length equals impression quality. A lasting (positive) impact may only take two to seven minutes. Taking too much of a senior member’s time suggests a lack of organisational awareness. They are busy; be succinct – express your commitment to contribute value; thank them for the opportunity and seek advice on who to engage with. Then leave it at that. Less is more.
  6. Seize opportunities to excel. Be vigilant for opportunities where your existing skillset is rare and can add value. Innovation and collaboration that generates new ways of working or new opportunities help both business performance and the brand – something close to the heart of business leaders. Add value in this way and you instantly become a visible, valuable business asset.
  7. Consciously make this an inflection point in your career. Take the opportunity to work in a different way. Be open and listen. Be seen by different people and be seen differently by the people who already know you. Build a profile and stay in touch with former colleagues and managers. Let them know what you’re doing and how your skills are developing.

More achievable than a promotion and, in some ways, less prescriptive, lateral moves offer the opportunity to enhance your ability to contribute to company performance – making you more valuable to the organisation. At a minimum, you’ll develop new skills, networks and insights about your business and how things get done. What you do with it is up to you! Good luck.

Louise Molly is a Director at Luminosity Consulting & Coaching.