It’s not unusual to see professionals focused on growing within their company through vertical movement. After all, “climbing the ladder” to leadership and a C-suite position is often seen as the ultimate goal in a person’s career. However, you can often find a new passion and learn new skills by moving into a different department or taking on a new role at the same level.
We asked 14 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust for the best ways a professional can start making a “horizontal” move. Follow their advice to steer your career in the direction you want to go.
1. Look for opportunities where you’re most needed.
Change your mindset. We tend to be driven to roles where we think we’re needed. These roles usually align with the things we want to do and where we are effective in delivering results. Flipping this mindset is important when moving horizontally. Rather than supporting where we think we’re needed, we should support where we’re actually needed. This will naturally create a new passion. – Jarod Latch, Spiracle Media
2. Be engaged in your organization.
Start by being an engaged employee. Join an internal committee, participate in philanthropy events and attend company functions. The more noticeable you are, the better. Talk to people outside of your core group. I highly suggest asking someone to grab a coffee or talk with you for a quick 30 minutes about their role. Pick their brain about all the components that make up their role. – Kimberly Davids, The Weitz Company, LLC
3. Understand why you want a change.
First, identify why you’re considering a change and assess if the potential new job and environment will help you achieve the change you desire. Develop realistic expectations and thoroughly research the job expectations, skills and experience required. When you receive a lateral offer, consider if the new position will help you move forward to achieve your long-term career goals. – Phil Willingham, Robert Half
4. Take a test-and-learn approach.
It’s important to remain agile as an employee continues their professional journey. We often use a test-and-learn approach. If an employee has a passion project, hobby or skill they’re interested in, we encourage employees to be honest and transparent with leadership so we can actively search out new opportunities to develop the skills and allow for horizontal movement. – William Balderaz, Futurety
5. Let your manager know.
Speak up! You don’t have to wait for an annual review. Find time to meet with your manager to talk about your career path, the professional skills you want to build and how those skills could be used by the organization. Great managers are impressed by vision and initiative. If you get a negative response, you know it’s time to start looking for a new place in which to attain your potential. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.
6. Volunteer with other departments.
When considering a horizontal move, volunteer with other departments to gain a feel for those areas. By giving your time, talent and abilities in a new department or role, you not only gain insight about potential fits, but you are also seen as a team player willing to help out other departments outside of your own. This exposure can help you identify and clarify potential opportunities. – Adam Boudreaux, The Leadership Group LLC
7. Seek out extra projects.
If you have employees who want to grow, give them options besides vertical growth. We have had new ongoing projects come up, and some of our employees have asked to take on the new challenges. We have rewarded employees with raises and extra responsibilities. – Douglas Carter, Ironside Human Resources
8. Communicate your reasoning to leadership and any subordinates.
A lateral move is worth doing when your interests have changed or you find you’re better at something else. Whatever the reason may be, communicate clearly with your leadership and your subordinates. Don’t box yourself in — you can always go back to the role you were in before if it doesn’t work out. – Samir Mokashi, Code Unlimited LLC
9. Network with other departments.
Network and get to know team members in other departments. Not only will this help you build a relationship with individuals you may not otherwise have met, but it also allows you to ask to job shadow. Shadowing a team member in another department allows you to observe someone’s day-to-day and better understand their role and if it is something that interests you. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
10. Continually assess the strengths needed in your chosen role.
It’s very important to continually assess the strengths of any high-performing team member in an area you wish to make a “horizontal” move into. Stay curious and regularly ask them what their goals are, as people are constantly evolving. Managers should listen to those employees who may express a wish to move into a different role so they can be there to support them in making a change. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
11. Pursue continuing education opportunities.
I work in an organization that is flat and doesn’t offer vertical job opportunities. We offer a lot of continuing education for employees to further their skills. We are also open to ideas that employees might have. I encourage employees to look elsewhere for opportunities if they feel inclined to do so. If you are concerned about a person’s future, then you will do this to support them. – Mark Becker, Florida United Methodist Foundation
12. Identify your strengths.
Identifying your strengths is key for both vertical and horizontal movement. Often, a key employee will join our team and will discover their strength is in a modified position. Allowing the strengths of each professional to shine ultimately leads to a strong and productive organization. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
13. Learn everything you can about the role.
If someone is interested in making a horizontal career move, I assume they already have some particular job role on their mind. I’d say learn more about it before you transfer. You might take an online course or ask your boss to get you involved part-time in a project to the extent that you can bring value. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
14. Map out your long-term plan.
First, see what is available. Second, remember that it’s about values, both personal and professional. Do your values align with the department and where you may want to go professionally? Map out your long-term plan. Where do you see yourself in 12 months, 36 months and 10 years? This will help you align your focus and facilitate a possible position shift. – David Wescott, Transblue