Should I take a lateral job offer?

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Getting a lateral job offer can be one of the toughest conundrums a person experiences in their career. It can come to you in two forms, you can interview for an internal role or an external role that you’re really excited about but find out the job is not a clear cut promotion, or your current manager can recommend you for an internal position that’s not exactly a promotion. In either case, it can feel like a lateral move isn’t the most desirable option for your career. However, before you turn down the opportunity, here are some questions to ask yourself to properly evaluate the opportunity.

 

  • Is it actually lateral?

You might have been offered the same salary as you’re currently making, but the salary is really only one aspect of the job offer. Are they offering flexible start times and end times or the ability to work from home? Will the new location of your office decrease your commute times? If it’s a new company, are the benefits like medical and dental premiums or 401k match better than your current company? Increasing your take home income and/or spending less time getting to and from work are benefits that should be taken into account when you’re comparing one opportunity to another. Granted, taken at face value they don’t seem to compare to an actual salary increase, but in reality they both impact how far your paycheck goes.

 

  • Does it solve a problem you’re facing?

Will this new role allow you to walk away from a demanding boss, responsibilities you’ve gained that aren’t a fit for your skillset, or give you better work/life balance? According to a Gallup study, these are three of the top reasons people leave their jobs. If this lateral opportunity allows you to shed an undesirable aspect of your current role or has the potential to increase your overall satisfaction with your life, this lateral job offer might be the answer to getting you excited about going to work again. If you’re in a situation where you’re so frustrated you’re on the verge of quitting without a new job in place, make sure you’re evaluating this offer for what it is, not just a way to escape. Sometimes, a person’s desire to leave a bad situation clouds their judgement surrounding the next opportunity, and they jump into even worse circumstances. We never want our candidates to face this issue, but if you are, honestly discussing this with your recruiter, s/he will likely bring another perspective for you to consider when reviewing new opportunities.

 

  • Will it lead you to your next job?

Even if you’re not getting a salary increase, and your benefits and commute time are staying the same, another question to ask yourself is if this lateral move will help you get your next job. Will it expand your skillset in an area that’s in demand? Is it on a team that is commonly selected for promotion? Will it raise your profile internally or externally? Will it give you the experience you need to get your dream job? Being able to map your career path beyond the job you’re in is beneficial to mapping how you will get to  the career you want. Sometimes a lateral opportunity is a stepping stone toward the next job you want because it will give you something that your background is missing. Insure you’re looking at this opportunity in terms of where it could lead you next year, in two years or in five years, not only for what it would do for your career this year. Once you evaluate that, it may not be a lateral opportunity at all, rather the key to getting the job you really want.

 

  • Do you have a choice?

We’re addressing this as the last question to ask yourself because it’s the least fun. There are times when an entire department is being eliminated, and in order to stay employed those employees are asked to take on a different role. If this is the position you’re in, this is the toughest opportunity to evaluate. Remember, you always have a choice. Another thing you have going in your favor is the current historically low unemployment rate. If you don’t want the job they’re offering you as a result of the dissolution of your department, statistically, you’ll be able to find something else.  

Another scenario where you might feel like you don’t have a choice is if there’s a pre-designated career path in your organization. For example, you’ve been employed for five years and at this juncture your title should be “xyz” and your responsibilities should be “abc.” Sometimes employees don’t feel like they’ve had the right experience to take on the new title or responsibilities just because they’ve achieved a certain length of tenure. However, they know that if they refuse the new role, it won’t be perceived positively and could jeopardize their job entirely. If you’re in this position, you’ll want to genuinely understand what your new responsibilities will be and determine if you’re really unable to perform them. Resist the temptation to let the fear of a different, unknown role drive your decision making.

 

Before you write off that “lateral” job offer, make sure you’re asking yourself these important questions to truly evaluate its merits. Change is hard for everyone, but make sure you’re resisting it for the right reasons, not just to avoid some of the uncomfortable stress change can bring.