Lateral moves used to be synonymous with taking a step backward. However, with the fundamental shift away from 40 years working at the same employer and retiring there, every aspect of the traditional employer-employee relationship is being questioned.

Recruiters who used to frown upon multiple positions on a 10-year resume now look at it as an asset. Similarly, employees who used to think up was the only way to go are realizing career growth can follow multiple paths.

Here are three advantages of making a lateral career move.

Work-life balance

Anyone who has worked in a large metropolitan area recognizes a shorter commute as a legitimate reason for a lateral career move. Regardless of geography, though, this logic points to a universally accepted truth about lateral moves: everyone can relate to lifestyle improvements.

Normally, we think of those improvements as financial; few people think twice about taking a job or conversely judging someone for taking a job for more money. Similarly, addressing health issues, spending more time with family or going back to school are all easily justified reasons for taking a lateral move.

Such lateral moves can significantly improve quality of life without the downside of appearing like a step-backward.

Dotting Is and crossing Ts

Becoming a T-shaped employee instead of an I-shaped employee is another lateral move reason growing in acceptance. While employees with deep knowledge will always be valued, those with cross-functional understanding can be equally as valuable.

Whether it is a software developer with a high EQ or an accountant who understands the sales cycle, smart employees that can work across departments or see the bigger picture deepen and strengthen teams. Making a lateral move to become more well-versed in an industry or multiple business languages can increase an employee’s value.


Let’s be honest, when we post a job, we are looking for the ideal candidate, assuming we will not find one that checks all the boxes. However, by making a lateral move, we may become that ideal candidate.

Similar to the above example, having expertise in one field and then moving to apply that expertise from another aspect in a more generalist or less advanced role means we might become that rare combination of skills and experience employers only hope to find.

Further, creating this type of role within our current organization may be possible. In fact, growing within may be even easier than finding another job.

For employers, it is often less expensive to keep an employee than hire a replacement. Adding the benefit of institutional knowledge and creating a role to keep an expert on staff while expanding his or her reach laterally can be a real boon to the employer.

For employees, staying within the organization but finding new ways to contribute can inspire creativity, renew perspective and create unforeseen opportunities.

The bottom line is the career ladder could be lateral and offer additional benefits worth considering; by remaining open-minded both employees and employers can benefit from lateral moves.