We often think of growth as linear and vertical, but that isn’t always the case. While many employees work upward toward a leadership role, climbing the ladder isn’t the only way to progress in your career. For instance, a professional might develop a passion for a role in an entirely different department and make a lateral move to a job at the same level.
Just because a new position isn’t necessarily at a “higher” level than a current one doesn’t mean someone’s not advancing their professional skills. Here’s how 11 members of Forbes Coaches Council recommend beginning your path to horizontal career growth.
- Ask For Professional Recommendations
Know the perceived skill gaps in your experience that are needed for the new role. Fill the gaps through great recommendations. For example, if you want to manage people but haven’t formally done it, have someone give you a reference (preferably on LinkedIn) highlighting your leadership skills and how much they enjoyed working on a project that you led. – Jennifer Thompson, Deviant Thinking
- Seek Experiences That Will Prepare You For The C-Suite
We have advised clients to take a horizontal move in the spirit of gaining international experience and/or experience in another division in preparation for a C-level role in the future. The more cross-pollinated one’s background is in terms of geographic, economic, profession and business function exposure, the more likely a candidate is to be included in succession planning. – Lisa Rangel, Chameleon Resumes LLC
- Know Your Personal and Professional Motivations
Lateral moves can provide new opportunities for development and future vertical movement by exposing you to new skills and interests, as well as allowing you to show your strengths in a different arena. Take time to make sure your new lateral role aligns to your personal motivations and professional goals and provides you the challenge to keep you energized for the learning curve. – Tonya Echols, Vigere
- Understand And Identify Your Transferable Skills
First, identify your top strengths. We’ve used Clifton Strengths often to help clients identify where they shine and what gives them energy. Then, map your strengths and experience to the horizontal role you are seeking. You may be surprised to see how your strengths and current role can support your success in many other roles. Share this mapping with the hiring manager. – Sandy Schwan, Evolving Strategies LLC
- Seek a Job-Shadowing Opportunity
Climbing the career ladder sometimes means taking a sidestep. Start having conversations with someone who is doing the job for which you aspire. Ask if they would be willing to have you “shadow” them, either on a formal or an informal basis. This type of cross-training presents opportunities to acquire new skills. If they agree, be prepared to reciprocate, because giving is a two-way street. – Daisy Wright, The Wright Career Solution
- Volunteer for a Newly Launched Project
One of the best ways to make a horizontal move is to zigzag into a newly formed group responsible for launching something new or innovative. Not only will life become very exciting, but you’ll also develop a broader range of knowledge and skills. This kind of offshoot team usually has high visibility, so it will keep you in a strong position for a vertical move in the future if you wish. – Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Leadership Academy
- Network with Other Departmental Leaders
Network with leaders in different functional areas. Ask what a move like this could mean to your career. How could they utilize you? How do you start the process? What other skills or experiences must you have to be considered? Go prepared with the strengths and skills you bring to the table. Have examples to show your initiative, ability to learn and create success, and positive teamwork. – Bobbie Goheen, Synthesis Management Group
- Design Your Growth with Self-Awareness
Horizontal moves are great when upward mobility in a company is limited. Start with self-awareness: who you are (passions, talents, values) and who you want to be (vision). Seek trusted advisors to uncover your options. Be bold in building relationships and learning from others. Know that most paths to “success” are self-defined, and growth requires both intention and commitment. – Erin Rocchio, Erin Rocchio Consulting, Inc.
- Seek Out Learning Opportunities
Be open about your desire to change. Be curious. Be ready to learn. Smart companies would much rather see you in the right position than at a competitor. Let your managers know you’re looking for a change and why. Then, be curious. Look for responsibilities outside your day-to-day role. This will give you exposure to the new skills, knowledge and processes that a horizontal move may require. – Mark Savinson, Strategy to Revenue
- Engage In Projects You’re Passionate About
The practical reality is that the fastest way to success is doing something you are passionate about. If you engage in projects and organizations you are interested in, you will naturally be curious and work on developing your knowledge and skills. This, in turn, will increase your reputation and credibility. As a result, you will become someone in high demand and will be offered opportunities. – Jean Ali Muhlbauer, People at Work
- Create Your Own Career Lattice
Lateral career moves make you more versatile, broaden your exposure to stakeholders and increase your strategic flexibility. The first step is to create a future roadmap. Figure out the role you’ll want to hold in two to five years and what skills and experience will help get you there. Then, ask your manager, mentors and peers what lateral roles will give you the experience you need. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC