Jemia Williams
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DEI Practitioner | Social Media | Writer

Moving up in your career doesn’t always mean moving vertically. Making a horizontal career move can be just as beneficial for your career. Sometimes a lateral career move is needed to get ahead.

Lateral moves can increase your brand within the organization, give you time to meet and connect with other groups and employees, and also provide exposure to parts of the business you might not reach otherwise. Not to mention, you could discover something you really love by joining another team or department. 

But how will you know when it is time to make that lateral move? Here are some quick team checkpoints that you can use to gauge whether or not a lateral move is in your near future. 

1. No one on your team has been promoted. 

Assess your team. How many people have been promoted in the last 12 months? If your answer is none, your next question should be: when was the last time someone was promoted? 

A way to diagnose the growth of a team is to understand the promotional history. If you are on a team that promotes every two to four years, chances are you need to develop a plan to look for another team with more advancement and visibility. If the team you are on is brand new, ask your manager what is the plan for the team over the next two to three years. Understanding the vision of any team — new or experienced — will give its members an idea of how they fit into its future plans. 

But be careful staying on a team where promotions are few and far between. You do not want to look up four years later, and you are still doing the same tasks with the same people. 

2. Your boss has lost their voice. 

You know the saying, “parenting your parents?" There comes a time in life when children grow up and begin parenting the ones who gave birth to them. This also happens in the workplace. 

If you are giving more to your boss than he or she is giving to you, it’s time for a new leader. Communication and feedback should be a two-way street, but your boss is still supposed to provide you with more direction than you are giving them.

Think about these questions: Does your boss ask your opinion on everything?  Are your peers seeking you out for help more than the team manager/leader? Does your boss vent to you about their role? Are your ideas helping your leader advance?

If you answered yes to any of those above questions, it’s time to look for a new team. How can your boss help you advance your career if they are having trouble navigating inside their own? 

3. No one has a seat at the table.

If you report to someone who does not have direct access to senior leadership, you should consider ways you can connect with team members who do have leaders at the table. Networking with teams with leaders who have direct access to decision makers can propel someone’s career tremendously. But not all team leaders have a seat at the table. 

You might be lucky enough to join an organization with a leader at the table, but if you don't, your goal should be to get one. This could require a lateral move. 

A manager, at any level, can advocate for the team and its success, but eventually, you need a leader with direct access to decision makers. Imagine, when your manager is at leadership meetings and ideas are being discussed, you want them to be able to put your name in a hat, right? Of course! Because their seat at the table is not just for them, it is for YOU and the entire team.

4. The workload has become stagnant or too easy. 

When I am easily distracted from projects, one of two things is happening: I am disinterested in the tasks, or the work has become too stagnant or simple. Being efficient and knowledgable in something does not mean that the work is easy, it should still challenge you. You might think that having an easier workload makes the day go quicker. But really it prolongs it, makes it more frustrating and tiresome. Work should excite you, even the repetitive tasks.  

If you can’t find a new challenge on your current team, another team might be the best option for you. 

There are more reasons why you should make a lateral move, but these four things you can do now to assess the health of your team. Don’t be afraid to move left and right in your career. It's usually the unplanned moves that create the most opportunities. You got this!

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Jemia is a certified Diversity & Inclusion Practitioner from Georgetown University. Her passions lie in research around equity, gender & diversity and blogging about her experiences as a woman of color. You can find Jemia on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.