People First HR Services

Sideways move may be right way up

Colleen Coates

Staying in a job longer than your mind and body are able to manage can have dire consequences. People who were once content become antsy when work grows over time. But when there are no opportunities to be promoted, what’s a restless employee to do?

Making a lateral move by accepting an equivalent role elsewhere might be an option. Depending on the size of the organization, this move might even be made without leaving the organization.

For employees, a lateral move helps shake off the cobwebs. Job dissatisfaction can be often be overcome by developing skills in different surroundings and by taking on new responsibilities. It’s true that being given new challenges is reinvigorating to one’s career and while it doesn’t usually come with a bigger salary, a lateral move does have a wealth of benefits:

  • Performing a different job helps escape boredom and jump-starts interest, motivation and engagement — even within the same organization.
  • Learning about different facets of the organization and gaining an appreciation for processes in other departments.
  • Being mentored by a new supervisor that you respect and can learn from.
  • Applying accumulated knowledge and skills to a new job without having to start over at a new organization.
  • Showing value and gaining visibility with a new group of co-workers and managers may bring potential opportunities in the future.

By allowing lateral moves, the organization gets to keep talented people with solid track records and supports their renewed commitment to the organization. At the same time, it not only saves the cost of talent recruiting and training new employees, it reduces the risk of having the organization’s intellectual property walk out the door in a knowledge-based economy.

But if there is no opportunity for a lateral move within, employees might have little choice but to look elsewhere. Sometimes a sideways career move can have non-financial rewards, be it a shorter commute, more job security, a better leader or the chance to grow within an organization that has greater potential.

With any job opportunity, it is important to look before you leap. Whether making a lateral move within the same organization or switching to another, make absolutely sure it is what you want and it is best for your career. Do your research and make an informed decision.

If a move does make sense, consider these tips for optimizing this opportunity:

  • It’s more than just salary. If the new role does not come with more pay, look at what you may be saving instead. It could be time, if you are reducing your commute; or it might be less stress, if you feel maxed out in your current position. It’s also important to consider factors such as employee benefits, paid time off, a chance to contribute to the growth of the company, new skill development as well as the potential to climb the ladder in the future.
  • Ask yourself what you want to learn. Make a list of the skills you’d like to add to your resume, and then search for roles that will help you to attain them. The people who are happiest at work are the ones who learn something new on a regular basis.
  • Get a leg up on a good reputation. If you are presented with an opportunity to take on a similar role for similar pay with a well-known company that has a stellar reputation, consider the long-term benefits of having a respected brand name on your resume. It may open all kinds of doors for you down the road.
  • Round out your resume. Don’t make a lateral move just for the sake of making a move. Instead, know how it fits in with your long-term career plans and if it will add the type of skills and knowledge you need to reach your ultimate goals. Are there gaps in your resume or areas you need to improve in? Step back to see the big picture and decide if a lateral move can help round out the qualifications you have to offer.

One last piece of advice: don’t make excessive lateral jumps. If you’re frequently going from job to job like a monkey swinging on branches, it can be counter-productive. Once you make a move, stay put long enough to not only make a difference to the organization but to make it count to you personally and professionally.


— With reporting by Barbara Chabai


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2013 H2