Monday, July 23, 2007

How to Make a Lateral Move

George Bush may have the deluded view that "we all not in Crawford anymore..." well, similarly, the workplace sure isn't what it used to be either.  Since the brush was cleared after our father's days, flatter organisational structures mean there are fewer opportunities for promotion to go round and, as a result, many more of us are having to rethink the way our careers progress.

A lateral move involving a change in jobs, but keeping the same pay, status or level of responsibility, is increasingly seen as a good way to develop ongoing career breadth and employability.

Aside from professional growth, other reasons for making a lateral move may include a change in personal circumstances or working for an organisation that matches your personal values.

Ultimately, making informed decisions about a lateral move and executing it correctly is another vital aspect of managing your career, and will pay dividends when it comes to long-term career advancement.

Where do I start?

Making a success of any lateral move calls for careful thought and planning.  Firstly, ask yourself:  why do you want to make the shift?  What is your long-term career objective?

Consider your strengths and passions and how the new working environment will help position you for the future.  Will it develop fresh thinking, skills or competencies that take you a step closer to the higher-level position you want, or provide more job satisfaction?  Accept that initially it may even involve a perceived backward step.  Be prepared to defend against that perception.

Look at internal possibilities

Many organisations encourage employees to pursue lateral moves as it helps cut down on the cost of recruiting and training new staff when existing employees leave - so establish your company's policy.

There's a growing trend for organisations to put mechanisms in place that enable individuals to find out more about other jobs in the company.  Chief among them is the informational interview, where employees can discuss, with colleagues in other departments, how they got their jobs, what their positions entail, and learn more about their part of the company.

Identify suitable jobs

One of the quickest ways to learn of new projects and assignments is if your organisation posts them on your intranet.  Sign up for new postings to be e-mailed directly to your inbox and put yourself forward for the ones you like the sound of.

Your network is another good way of hearing about opportunities before they are advertised.  So make sure colleagues, friends and family are using their eyes and ears on your behalf.  Also use online forums to hook up with people from other organisations.

However, remember that as specialist skills can go out of date, too long away from your key function could lead to you becoming less employable.

Update your CV

One of the downsides of lateral moves is that you could end up with several CV entries that show similar job titles or the same grade levels.

To get round this, prepare an experience-based, or functional, CV that emphasises what you've done and plays down job titles or industries.  For instance, if you've held the position of recruitment manager at the last three companies you've worked for, specify that each time you've handled successively larger budgets - managed bigger teams - recruited more headcount, etc.

The hard sell

In addition to standard interview preparation and thorough background research, rehearse thoroughly the reasons for your collection of similar jobs and why your career progression appears to have stalled, particularly if the move is an external one.  Use your breadth of past experience to sell yourself.

If you only do five things...

1.  Identify your long-term career objective;

2.  Let your strengths and passions influence your direction;

3.  Actively network to find out about suitable openings;

4.  Make full use of informational interviews; and

5.  Create an experience-based CV;

Flat organisational structures have made lateral moves inevitable.  Traditionally, most careers are built on vertical moves, where individuals are driven solely by the desire for money and status.  Considering a lateral move tends to be much more about gaining job satisfaction and added knowledge even though progression up the ladder may be the ultimate goal. 

To succeed in a lateral move, significant knowledge about oneself, how the move matches the needs of the new role in a different, usually untried function is essential, as is, of course, a personal interest in the new area.  Job changers tend not to do this well, but a good executive coach or mentor can help.

If researched properly, and matched objectively to your skills and interests, a lateral move may be the best decision you make.


Anonymous Tara said...

You write very well.

10:49 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home