Seven Ways to Move Up by Moving Over

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While sometimes taking a few steps sideways — or even back — can help you move forward, not all lateral moves or career detours will take you in the direction that you ultimately want to go. The trick is knowing which will and which won’t.

According to Melissa Llarena of Career Outcomes Matter, it can be detrimental to take a detour if you’re unlikely to learn anything new in the next position. “If you are switching to gain different skills or expand your network in the company, then a sideways turn could be helpful,” said Llarena. “However, if you are switching into a role where you cannot leverage any of your existing skills, then you should hear an internal alarm go off.” To help avoid a dead end, Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide, recommended evaluating any lateral move in light of whether it will expand your skill set or neutralize what may be viewed as outdated or “legacy” experience.

Stacey Hawley, Career Specialist at The Credo Company, noted that career detours can be beneficial if they round out your overall experience and practical education. “Some detours enhance your understanding of an industry or related industries — for example, industries that are vertically integrated,” said Hawley. “When determining whether a career detour is beneficial, consider how you will use your newly acquired skills for subsequent roles.”

Are you looking for that next career challenge but unsure how to get there? Climbing the corporate ladder might not be the only way. According to Robin Mandel, writing for TheLadders, today more than ever, a career detour just might lead to your career destiny. At every level — including the top — professionals, managers, and executives-in-waiting commonly zigzag through several lateral lurches before stepping up to their destination position.

Why has lateral become the new way to the top? The recession is partly to blame — the hierarchy in many companies flattened and compressed during the recession, effectively eliminating rungs that were previously part of the expected climb.

Because of this reality, it has become more important to “think sideways.” If you don’t plan ahead by considering lateral rotations as part of your career development plan, you may end up stuck on your current ladder rung indefinitely, unless you find a way to take a larger-than-usual step up. Yet paradoxically, exceptional advancement is less likely if you haven’t taken the time to boost your experience and confidence with lateral moves.

Cheryl Palmer, career coach and founder of Call to Career, suggested a helpful analogy: “If you’re stuck in a traffic jam and it may be hours before you’re able to move forward, it makes sense to change lanes and exit on a side road where you can more quickly navigate around it. Sitting in the traffic jam and fuming doesn’t get you anywhere.”

For advice on how to effectively turn a side step into a step up, TheLadders asked several career-development experts to weigh in.


Related Topics : A Big Market for Big Data Jobs, Midmarket CIO, IT Management Automation, SharePoint, Technology Markets

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