When people think about their own employment and the progression they might make throughout their career, they generally think about moving upwards, climbing ladders and rising through the ranks. It’s rarer to hear about people who move sideways for success, but it is an option, and one that may present itself to you more frequently than the opportunity to take a step up.
It is important to recognise that these sideways moves are often more possible for those who work within larger organisations. There are simply more roles in existence and positions can frequently become available, opening up opportunities for existing employees to make the move.
There are, of course, many examples of employees moving between internal departments and roles to work their way up through the ranks – even moving from the mailroom to the C-suite.
Choosing to pursue a more senior role at another organisation may work for you but there are plenty of risks involved – both for you and the organisation hiring you. As you face the unknown of a new organisation you might encounter uncertainty surrounding:
- The recruitment process – did everything go as it should? This is often likened to the dating process. Dating can go really well, only for things to not be as they seemed once settled into marriage.
- The decision to move from your previous position – did you make the right choice?
- Your motivation to make the move – were you prioritising money or your career (or something else entirely)?
- The true culture of your new organisation – the recruitment process is about putting the best foot forward, for both jobseekers and organisations, and the reality may not line up to your expectations.
While you might be confident in your ability to get the job done, there are many things that are unfamiliar as you move to a new organisation and this can leave you unsure and nervous as you tackle the new role and it may even lead to a situation where the role isn’t the right fit, leading you to look elsewhere, going through the offboarding process sooner than expected.
If a position becomes available in your current organisation, there’s a lot you stand to gain by applying and, if all goes well, taking on the role – even if it isn’t propelling you upwards. By moving sideways you have the advantage of:
- Already being known – onboarding becomes a lot easier when you are already familiar with the organisation’s systems, processes and culture. Not only is this an advantage for you, but it’s also an advantage for your organisation.
- Having a network – your time in the organisation so far has seen you make connections and build relationships with your colleagues, clients, suppliers and more. This ready-made network will make taking on a role within the same organisation a lot easier.
- Accrued entitlements – starting with a new organisation means you start with a clean slate of holiday time, sick leave etc. When you move sideways, you keep all of these entitlements that you’ve worked so hard to build up over time and you can continue to accrue them.
- Existing credibility and respect – getting your team to trust you is not always easy. When you take an internal role, you don’t need to start from scratch to prove your trustworthiness and capability, you can build on the foundations you have already laid.
- Strategic knowledge – not only are you known by the organisation, you also have the benefit of knowing the key players in the organisation so you can make strategic moves.
- A smooth probation period – if a probation period applies when you take an internal role, it is very likely that you pass through this time with ease. You’re familiar with the Dos and Don’ts of the organisation, so it’s unlikely you’ll put a foot wrong.
By far, the biggest advantage of seeking to move sideways through an internal role is the perspective you gain by experiencing another part of the business.
As a career coach, I come across plenty of people who have taken internal roles in the past and the consistent feedback I get from each of them is that their move helped them to gain a better understanding of the business, which aided them as they continue to move through their career.
Joe is a great example of this. In his Administration role at an education institution he regularly volunteered for various roles outside of his official position, reporting that he enjoyed getting to know different areas of the institution to understand how each department worked together. He also pursued further study with a Teaching degree. Eventually, he was ready to put his study to use and, when an internal role became available, he wasn’t daunted by the idea of applying for it, since he already had an understanding of how the teaching department and wide organisation operated.
This idea was also commonplace in days gone by with internships and cadetships that were designed to give individuals a 6-month stint in one department of an organisation before rotating and placing them in a new department. This gave individuals the opportunity to see the full picture of the business and diversify their knowledge.
The reality is that during your time with an organisation your knowledge grows. You may pursue further study or add to your skillset, so when that position becomes available internally, it gives you an opportunity to apply and move into the position with ease. Sometimes, moving horizontally is just as advantageous as moving vertically.