By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
In the current economy, getting a promotion to a more senior position within your current workplace is harder than ever. Your boss isn’t likely to move up because their boss is not going anywhere either. With a few exceptions in the technology sector, the pace of hiring across most industries is just not creating new opportunities like in years past. But you can still enhance your career with your current employer by taking a lateral move — a position that is equal to your current role but in another division or department.
You may be thinking: Shouldn’t my resume show a steady progress of more responsibility or growth? Not always. Given the emphasis on collaboration and efficiency in today’s workplace, your ability to understand a business from several angles improves when you can work within a company in different departments.
Lateral promotions are sometimes referred to as the Career Lattice within organizations and these strategies have become popular for several reasons. First, it is an excellent way to invest in developing strong talent given that many young workers simply do not want to have the same job for three to five years.
A lateral move may be the best way to stay engaged and to keep growing while not getting bored or frustrated that your opportunities are limited. When you have opportunities to see a company from different divisions or departments–operations, customer service, marketing or research and development–then you become that much more valuable as an employee.
You see the big picture and you see the links between all those departments and how to streamline processes that often become disjointed when no one manages across a department. As a consequence you know how best to communicate with different staff and leverage the relationships you have across the company. In some workplace environments this has become a strategy for advancement and retaining great employees that is creating genuine opportunities.
The other reason lateral promotions have become so important to talent development truly impacts us as Latinas given how much we place a value on family, parenting, and community life.
Lateral promotions can offer an option when work life balance becomes critical for parents of young children or caregivers for elder parents. If a promotion up the career ladder means more travel, more supervision, or more hours, a lateral move may be the best option if you need to slow your pace without dropping out of the workforce.
Depending on your industry, sometimes the act of not taking a promotion can be a significant strike against you. A lateral promotion may give you the same visibility within your company and might be the best way to promote your career. It can maximize your options so that when you are ready for more responsibility your boss will see a consistent track record of building your experience for more leadership.
If you think a lateral promotion is right for you, plan ahead. Begin looking at how your organization is structured and whether any other employees have made such moves within the company. Next, talk to your boss about why you see this opportunity as a real benefit to the company and to your career ambitions.
Keep a focus on broadening your expertise more so than avoiding additional responsibility. If there are no examples of a career lattice in your workplace, talk to your human resource leader for support and advice.
At the very least, you will benefit from introducing this as an option for you. You may find it hard to ask for what you need to be successful at work. But if you don’t make your intentions known, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable for others to make assumptions about what you want.
It’s your career — make your own moves work for you!
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™.