Your Next Job Could Be a Lateral Move—On Your Way to the Top

In today's workforce, "over" is the new "up." Here's how to leverage the trend to rev your career

by Joanne Cleaver • Next Avenue
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Most workers now in their 50s and 60s started their careers on the bottom rungs of a ladder. They expected to climb steadily, finish at the top and declare success.

That was then.

These days, career ladders are being replaced by career lattices, either by design (the rise of teams) or by default (layoffs and shrinking industries).

Unlike up-or-off ladders, lattices are diagonal frameworks that offer a range of potential next moves for workers. On the lattice, when you make a lateral move, you aren’t being pushed aside. Instead, you’re getting a chance to cultivate new, related skills and experiences that can position you for a traditional promotion or a different job altogether.

Over Is the New Up

The ability to lattice to adjacent positions will be the defining career skill of the next two decades. In other words, "over" is the new "up."

The research that grounds my new book, The Career Lattice, indicates that about 30 percent of American employers currently offer some sort of purposeful lateral career moves, even if they don't use the term "lattice."

(MORE: Why You Need a ‘Reverse Mentor’ at Work)

But whether your company offers a formal lattice system or not, one thing is for sure: Late-career lateral moves are emerging as a tactic to free up coveted promotions for Gen Xers while mining the experience of baby boomers who still have a lot to give.

That means you probably have two choices as an employee: Start plotting a lateral move now or wait for it to be plotted for you. By understanding your employers' talent needs, you can map a lateral strategy that'll be good for you and your boss.

Click here for 5 tips for lateral moves on Next Avenue

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Photo courtesy of  anaken2012/

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