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Knowing when to sidestep in your career

Posted on 28 February 2024

Knowing when to sidestep in your career

​5-minute read

The iconic 1980s hit 'The Only Way is Up' by Yazz always came to mind during discussions about promotions, with its memorable chorus echoing like my personal anthem. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you haven't already. However, it's worth pondering the lyrics - is upward movement the only path to success?

Recent years have highlighted that while we often feel in control of our careers, sometimes external factors can disrupt this control. But, our reactions to these challenges can steer us back on track. Each person's career path is a unique puzzle, and often, online resources focus solely on upward mobility, like salary increases, promotions, or new titles. Yet, it's essential to recognise that not every career step leads upwards. At times, either by choice or necessity, a career might move sideways or even downward.

There's no definitive right or wrong approach to career development. Understanding this, we aim to illuminate the benefits of lateral career moves, dispel common misconceptions, and provide insights into when such a move might be beneficial for you. For this purpose, we’ve partnered with Felia Lohrmann, a seasoned HR expert and recruiter at Qcells, and Paulina Lipińska, a renowned People Operations Specialist with experience at several leading internet companies. Together, their expertise offers valuable perspectives on navigating and appreciating the diverse paths a career can take.


What is a lateral move within your career?

When we refer to lateral movement within your career, we are referring to a change in potentially your job role, responsibilities or department within your current organisation or the change to a similar position in another organisation.

The move is without significant adjustment in seniority or salary but rather a shift in the type of work you are accomplishing.

Not everyone will be satisfied with such a movement as Paulina shared, many might want to simply push on to new heights, especially with pressures to keep climbing the corporate ladder. However, making such a move will be completely dependent on what you truly want from your career, what will make you satisfied. The more you know this, the more power you have when making decisions.


Key indicators such a move might be right for you.

Paulina suggests that if you're uncertain about making a lateral career move, take a moment to introspect and assess your level of contentment and satisfaction at work. She believes that feeling content and satisfied with your workload is an indicator of being 'happy' in your job. However, it's important to acknowledge that the situation isn't always black and white. Paulina advises reflecting on your motivations and considering whether exploring different tasks or roles could align with these. She emphasises the importance of being open to adjustments in your career trajectory, especially when you find something no longer resonates with you.

Felia adds to this by pointing out that if your personal hobbies are being overshadowed by work commitments for extended periods, it might signal an approach toward burnout. Furthermore, Felia notes that experiencing regular feelings of unexplained sickness or a sense of dread about going to work could indicate you are already burnt out. She suggests that in these instances, considering a lateral move might be beneficial. Listening to your body and its responses can be a crucial guide in determining the right time for a career change.


Can a lateral move influence long-term career growth?

Embracing a lateral career move can significantly enhance various aspects of your professional journey, even if the next upward progression is unclear. Felia highlighted that this approach can introduce structure into your professional life and aid in career exploration, revealing opportunities more closely aligned with your personal goals and abilities.

Paulina added that roles with the same title can differ greatly in responsibilities, scope, and impact across different organisations. Thus, a lateral move can enrich both your hard and soft skills, influencing how you handle various situations, work environments, and interpersonal relationships in your future career.

Furthermore, addressing the issue of burnout that Felia previously discussed, such a transition can lead to improved work-life balance and overall job satisfaction, which may be difficult to achieve in your current role or organisation.


Misconceptions that are simply not true

Our surroundings significantly shape us. Our parents encourage us to surpass their achievements, our friends strive for what they perceive as success, and we, too, seek validation among our peers.

This context often casts a shadow of misconceptions over lateral career moves, deterring many from considering them. Felia and Paulina pointed out a common misbelief: that lateral moves signify failure or an inability to handle pressure. Contrary to this, lateral movements can offer immense benefits, laying a stronger foundation for future career advancement.

Felia emphasised another concern: the fear of appearing unambitious or complacent by not seeking higher positions or greater responsibilities. It's crucial to recognise that contributing to a company's vision and success doesn't always require climbing the traditional corporate ladder. Opportunities for financial gain, increased responsibility, and career growth exist beyond promotions. If your current organisation fails to acknowledge this, it might not be the right fit for your career aspirations.


Whether you move upward, downward, or laterally, remember that your career is under your command. Each step you take could be a triumph or a learning experience. It's your prerogative to determine which path to persist on and when to make a strategic change.

Leadership isn't for everyone, just as some are not destined for perpetual groundwork. In time, your ideal career trajectory will become clear. Observing the knowledge shared by Paulina and Felia, we learn that lateral moves aren't daunting but opportunities to be welcomed, providing momentum for future endeavours.

A big thank you to our guests for supporting us on this article, if you wish to share it within your network so we can collectively bring simplicity to the chaos of recruitment then please feel free to do so.



My name is Eden, I am a Founding Partner at Peritus Partners, a next generation recruitment team. Interested in partnering with us on a future article? Reach out today for more information. 😎

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