Why you should consider a horizontal career move

Sometimes we can get stuck thinking about career growth in terms of only moving up the ranks. But have you ever considered moving sideways?

Horizontal career moves can be just as beneficial to your career as vertical ones, and they're also becoming more common. This means that more people are moving into roles that are adjacent to theirs (for example, from Account Executive to Producer), instead of making traditional vertical moves (which, for an Account Executive, would be Account Manager).

To explain why a horizontal career move can be good for you, we asked Sian Havard, Founder of Milkshake Group, a Brisbane-based consultancy; and Sam Chisholm, Career Business Partner at Cotton On Group, to shed light on some of the benefits.

  • Develop your breadth and depth of skills. A horizontal career move allows you to keep building on your skills, instead of staying in the same role and waiting for a ‘big break’. “Making a move internally into an area you’re interested in is a great opportunity to ignite your passion and learn new things,” Havard says.

    It’s also a way to make a positive impression on your boss. “Employers value someone who has enthusiasm for what they’re doing and pushes themselves to grow.” 
    Chisholm adds, “One specialist skill set will seldom be enough to get a corner office today. Our leaders need a breadth – as well as depth – of skills.” Adding newly developed skills to your SEEK Profile will also help you stand to to future employers.

  • Become more resilient to change. “By working across different areas in an organisation, or moving to a different type of organisation to do the same role (for instance from a multinational to a start-up, or from a pharmaceutical company to a technology company), you’ll challenge yourself and learn what you’re capable of,” says Havard.

    In doing so, you can also try out new ways of thinking and working, and trial new approaches to problem-solving. This will help you become more resilient to workplace changes and confident in your abilities to manage change in future.

  • Gain fulfilment and networks. Having different experiences and meeting new people as a result of a horizontal career move can also make work more enjoyable. Havard says, “You may find more meaning in your work, whether this is due to the type of work you’re doing, the type of people you’re working with, or the fact you’re learning something new each day.”

    Working with a range of people is beneficial for you and the business.
    “Success in a modern organisation is achieved through people who are connected and know who to go to in order to get things done,” Chisholm explains. That’s why making a sideways career move and extending your network increases your chances of success. “When the time comes for a promotion, you’ll have more than one group championing your cause.”

If you're considering making a horizontal career move, speak to your manager or HR representative to identify how you could bridge any gaps in your skills while pursuing your passion.

  • Open the door for more opportunities. “A horizontal move can be a valuable decision when it comes to your future,” says Havard. “You may not have the skills right now to be able to successfully apply for a different role externally, but once you make an internal move and develop your skills you may find yourself fielding approaches from companies about opportunities, and will be able to confidently apply for external opportunities.”

    You may also find that, as a result of your move, you progress into a higher salary bracket, as your increased skills and experience means you can offer more value to an employer.

Chisholm has seen many people make positive moves within the Cotton On Group. “With seven brands under our roof, we have the ability to move team members from brand to brand as well as across our five global hubs. We often move people from smaller jobs in bigger markets to bigger jobs in smaller markets, which really helps round out their experience.”

Havard too has seen many people make successful horizontal career moves during her time working in HR. “This includes someone who moved from a tech support role to being a software developer, someone who transitioned from a blogger outreach position to a sales role, and someone who moved from a sales management role to a B2B marketing position,” she says.

If you’re considering making a horizontal career move, speak to your manager or HR representative to identify how you could bridge any gaps in your skills while pursuing your passion.