Making a Lateral Career Move

What is it?

I call it the 'side step?. It can happen one of two ways:

  • Your boss offers you a new position within the company that is neither a step up, nor a step down and has neither higher nor lower pay, thus it is the 'side step? or as is professionally known the 'lateral career move?.
  • You decide you want a new challenge, a change of scenery or perhaps feel the 'side step? option offers more prospects for promotion, so you request the 'lateral career move?.

Reasons why the employer may suggest a lateral career move:

  • The employer may not be happy with how you are getting on in your existing department but before you start to panic, there will usually be some dialogue with you before the change is made that indicates that is the reason.
  • They expect perhaps you to perform better in the new post than the existing person.
  • The company is changing, perhaps they have a new manager and they are allocating people to new posts to see how they perform just for a trial period.
  • The company is downsizing so they are losing your old position and so need to move you to somewhere else rather than lose you altogether.
  • Alternatively, as is often the case with the Hotel trade, working within a variety of different departments is part of the path to management as learning every aspect of running the Hotel from ground up is crucial for effective management.

If you have not been advised about the reasons for the lateral career move that has been suggested, offered or forced upon you schedule an appointment to discuss it more thoroughly with your boss.

Pros and cons of a Lateral career Move


  • Promotion. A lateral career move presents an opportunity to gain more experience and make more contacts within the company. This should put you in a better position should a 'step up? vacancy arise in the future.
  • Reassurance re employer loyalty. If your department has been downsized, this shows your employers loyalty and commitment to retain you.
  • Increased Marketability. Learning more about other aspects of the company make you a viable candidate for management roles and also to those outside the company looking to hire someone with a broad range of experience in that one field of business.
  • Professional Development. New challenges and new Faces. Being in the same post for a few years can become tedious and dull.
  • New manager. This could be good or bad depending on how you feel about your existing manager!
  • No extra Responsibilities. While there will be new challenges you will not be faced with extra responsibilities which you may not be ready for.
  • Cons

    • No promotion. You may have been hoping after that time on that department a promotion was more appropriate than a side step! You are no closer to your career goal.
    • Salary does not increase. Your new role may have new challenges that tax you more than the old post but you won't necessarily be paid anymore than previously.
    • You liked your existing post. You are very happy working where you are with the people you like and don't want to change. It's upheaval and challenge that you simply do not want. You like where you are at and have no desire to move up, down or sideways!
    • You may fail. This is a new job and you may not be as good at is as you feel you were at your old one. Then what happens, will you be fired or side stepped again, perhaps a demotion this time?

    You can see from the very different pros and cons that what is very important when considering a lateral career move is that you understand the motivations both for yourself and the employer and what you expect to be achieved from this move. Give it some careful thought before agreeing to the change.