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Why taking a career side-step isn’t a step backwards

3 February 2022 at 4:13 pm
Maggie Coggan
We dive into the negativity surrounding the idea of a career side-step and find out why it might not be such a bad thing

Maggie Coggan | 3 February 2022 at 4:13 pm


Why taking a career side-step isn’t a step backwards
3 February 2022 at 4:13 pm

We dive into the negativity surrounding the idea of a career side-step and find out why it might not be such a bad thing

Career trajectories are often depicted as climbing a ladder. If you’re moving up the ladder, you’re doing well – moving in any other direction is seen as a failure. 

So what happens if you take a job that’s not necessarily progressing you forward in your career, but moving you sideways? Is that a bad thing? 

Well, it depends on what you’re setting out to achieve, the skills you are wanting to build, and what kinds of opportunities you’re hoping to have. But sometimes, a step to the left or right might actually be exactly what you need to do in order to eventually climb that next rung. 

So what exactly is a lateral move? 

It can mean a whole bunch of different things, but essentially a lateral move is when you take on a new job that’s at the same career level as your current job, but may have different duties. 

It’s important to note that a career side-step is not the same as a career change, because you’re generally sticking in the same field. 

And why would you do that? 

Sometimes, jumping up a step isn’t possible. You don’t have the right skills, experience or contacts yet to go where you need to go. 

But taking a side step can mean a new environment, being surrounded by new people, and working under a different boss. Working in a completely different place (even if you are doing the same thing) and under new people gives you the chance to grow and enhance your current skill set. It can also reignite the spark that you may have once had with your chosen profession. 

Lateral moves also help you grow your professional network. Starting at a new organisation presents you with a whole new world of people to meet, who may drop job offers or open you up to career opportunities you never thought previously possible.  

But is there a time when a side-step isn’t such a good idea? 

What works for one person, isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of this new offer and what you might lose if you take it. Thinking about how much a pay cut you’re willing to take, what your new employer’s leave policies are, flexible working arrangements, and even salary sacrificing options are all important.

Many of your colleagues, friends or family will have a negative view of this decision, so it’s important to pick and choose who you listen to. And while it may sound wishy-washy, more often than not you should trust your gut. If an opportunity feels right, take it.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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