Why a Lateral Career Move Could Be Your Best Move

The millennial generation gets a bad rap. They’re known for a sense of entitlement when it comes to moving quickly up the corporate ladder and are willing to change jobs frequently to make it happen. I’m the first to admit I’ve been guilty of this attitude, though I didn’t always realize it at the time (hindsight is both 20/20 and a b#@%h). But recently I stopped trying to move up to take a step sideways and it’s taught me a few things. First, corporate ladders are exhausting and I deserved a rest. Second, you don’t always have to move up to move forward in your career. If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or just ready for a new challenge, here’s a few reasons why a lateral move could be just what your career needs.

Broaden Your Perspective

You know your job like the back of your hand, and you know the ins and outs of your firm, too. But all that “knowing” can lead to thinking there is only one way to do what needs to get done. Sometimes, making a change is the only challenge you need to shake things up.

See a Different Side of the Industry

I worked for architecture firms for the first eight years of my career. I became familiar with their language, cultures, processes and philosophies. My recent move brought me to a new side of the industry to work for a project management firm. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I have learned there is so much more to this industry than I ever imagined and am 100% better for it. I don’t know where my career will take me in the future, but as a professional in the AEC industry, I know I am much more knowledgeable for having stepped outside my comfort zone.

Work For Someone New

Every boss has their own approach to management and mentoring. Whether you love, like, or loathe your current boss, exposure to a variety of supervisors in the early years of your career can help you decide what type of manager you want to be when the time comes. Making the move to work under a new boss can be scary, but it can also be one of the greatest learning experiences in your career. Think about what you like about your current supervisor and what you wish was different. Make a list of the qualities you’re looking for in your next boss and then go find someone that lives up to them.

Observe How Another Business is Run

Is your firm formal or casual? Large or small? New or well established? No two firms are the same (even if their logos are) and everything from how they pursue work to how they structure themselves internally can teach you something new. Maybe your past experiences can help your new firm grow, or see themselves in a new light. Or maybe you’ll have access to resources you didn’t even know existed.

When I moved to DC I left a medium sized local architecture firm to join a global architecture and design firm. In my first few weeks on the job I saw my first proposal template, a robust and functioning marketing database, and a searchable digital image database that held over 40,000 images (a huge step up from the file folders I had used before). These are things I now know how to build, design, and manage, but at the time they blew me away. My title didn’t change in that move, but my perspective certainly did.

Prove Yourself…Even To Yourself

Every firm has a different way of measuring the success of their marketing and communications efforts. You may even be laughing to yourself right now thinking about how your firm doesn’t measure them at all. If you fall into the “no measurement” camp, think about this: How are you going to prove the impact of your work when it comes time to interview for the job of your dreams?

The first option is to attempt the application of metrics and measurement to the work you do now within your current role. Sometimes this isn’t something you can do without the cooperation of your team or firm, and if they aren’t willing to play along, it might be time look elsewhere for a firm the places a larger emphasis on accountability from their marketing efforts. Proof of impact goes much further than just being useful in a job interview. It can also help improve your job satisfaction, build confidence, provide you with affirmation of your skill set, and identify areas where you may need to improve.

Reposition Yourself

One trap that many professionals fall into when they stay at a firm too long is that leadership can only see them as the person they were when they started. Does this sound familiar? You’re one hell of a marketing coordinator and after years of proving yourself are finally rewarded with a promotion to marketing manager. But after about six months you realize that your title may have changed, but your job description hasn’t. Leadership just aren’t willing to let go of the coordinator they trust to handle those high priority pursuits. At first it’s flattering, but eventually you become frustrated with the lack of transition and your unmet expectations for growth.

In some situations, this can be solved by a sit down with your firm leadership and HR. In fact, if you love the firm you work for, I’d highly recommend having this conversation (even multiple times) before you take any other action. But in some cases, it may be time to accept that your firm isn’t willing to let you grow in the way you hoped. Moving to a new job presents you with the opportunity to come in at a more senior level and position yourself as the expert you’ve grown to be without all the baggage.

Learn, then Keep On Learning

Every new step in your career is an opportunity to learn. Whether you’re moving up or moving out, make sure that you’re considering more than just title and money. Think about the gaps in your knowledge as a professional and take roles that help you fill them. This approach will help you become a stronger and more well-rounded marketer.

Remember, when it comes to your career, it’s all about progress. You don’t need to keep moving up, you need to keep moving forward. Making any move in your career, even a lateral one, won’t be as easy as staying where you are, but as my dad likes to remind me when things get hard, “Uncomfortable is good. When you’re uncomfortable, you’re learning. And when you’re learning, you’re growing.” I then respond with something super mature like, “Whatever, Dad!” I hate it when he’s right. (Just kidding, Dad!)