Career goals and career planning, why a sidestep could be the best decision you make...

5 min

When most working professionals consider a new role, the automatic process would be to consider the next step up in the career ladder for progression, but this isn’t always the case and doesn’t have to be the only route. There can be a great benefit to your career in the long term when you consider alternative paths.

How to move forward with your career

A linear career path isn’t the path for everyone, traditional processes may suggest that we should always accept more senior and progressive roles, however taking a sidestep can often contribute significantly to long-term career goals and self-development. There are pros and cons to a lateral career move, and it’s worth considering the stage of your career, your personal circumstances and ultimately, how this move will impact your long-term career goals.

Before embarking on a potential lateral career path, it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:

Will this contribute to my long-term career goals and strategy?

Will this move allow myself the opportunity to develop my skills, knowledge, and experience?


Will this move give me greater satisfaction and work life balance?

Sometimes a lateral career move can be based less on career progression and goals, but external factors such as a greater balance between work and personal life, aligning values, culture, and role satisfaction.

At CSG, we have vast experience supporting and guiding senior level candidates to reach their end career goals. Throughout this process, we consult and advise on how candidates can be more strategic when selecting their next role, to gain a broader skill set and ultimately increase your perceived value and become in demand for future key career goal roles.

A recent example of this was demonstrated by a highly successful Sales Director who wanted to take a strategic sideway step, into a Senior National Account Manager position. Although there was no financial movement, the change in personal circumstance for the candidate was significant. The move enabled the candidate to have more flexibility from their home-based office, for a business with exciting YOY growth and respect for individual work ethic without micromanaging. We worked closely with the candidate to ensure this move was successful and contributed to the long-term goals they aspired for.

Below we have identified five key factors to consider when making your next career move, whether that’s lateral or a slight step-down, for the greater goal of driving your career forward in the long term:

1. Have a clear plan and focus on your end career goal

Before you make the next move in your career, whether it be a linear or a lateral step, it’s important for you to have a clear vision of what you want, where you want to be and how you can achieve it. You need to ensure a lateral career move isn’t meaningless and will contribute to your long-term goals. Consider where you are at present, your skills, experience, and knowledge. Then think about how you need to build on this to reach your end career goal, where are focus and development areas? What qualifications should be considered? How much experience is required and what are the timescales for reaching your desired goals? A lateral career move and temporary side-step in your career can be hugely beneficial but it’s crucial to focus on the long term development of your career so you can make a strategic move that doesn’t hinder your goals.

2. Learn new skills

Moving sideways in your career can be beneficial in gaining more transferrable skills, particularly if your lateral move is in a different company within the same sector. The broader your skill set, the more valuable you will be to a future employer. How can you expand your knowledge and build on your existing skills? Are there peers and colleagues you can work closely with to share your experiences and mentor one another? Ultimately, any career move needs to allow yourself the opportunity to add skills or additional knowledge to increase the value you can offer future roles and organisations.

3. Increase your marketability

If you’re not quite ready to take on more responsibility, making a lateral move within the same or similar industry will help to build your professional profile and gain a wider network.

Building your personal brand can be hugely beneficial for your career and current business goals. Building a personal brand is crucial in todays market, especially when it comes to online presence and networking. In many industries, people buy people; business relies on building relationships and on your reputation. Building a wider network can be implemented through a career move, either at a different company or moving internally between departments.  

4. Deal with setbacks and move on

It is important to remember that every successful person has experienced setbacks in their career, likely more than expected. Career setbacks can come in many different forms; from not getting a promotion, being told you don’t have enough experience for a new role or missing out on a big project you thought you’d be perfect for.

Lessons can be learned from each setback, and these may be a temporary delay whilst you build up professional experience and knowledge within your sector. Take the time when dealing with setbacks to reflect on your skills and experience and know that not every career move is right for you. Try to shake off any insecurity and look forward to the right career move, be patient and know your value. A lateral career move can be driven by your own decisions, or external factors. Whatever the circumstances of setback, focus on the positives you can take from a lateral move and set yourself goals to move forward.

5. Focus on long-term job satisfaction

Another important factor to consider when taking a career move is the importance of the financial gain versus job satisfaction. While the salary bracket can be a deciding factor when selecting appropriate career moves to set your sights on, job satisfaction should also be a key priority. Here, you need to ask yourself what is more important to you and what would enrich your life long-term – earning slightly less and being able to spend more time with your family, or that high-powered job that comes with the salary, yet more responsibility. This is a factor that will be the most fluid dependent on the stage of your career, and your family life cycle as to what your driving factors are.

How CSG can support your next career move

Whilst making a career move might not always be a straight-forward process, there are some factors to consider throughout the process as outlined above. When looking for your next role, working with an industry specific consultant can help you to determine which roles are worth taking a side-step for and which ones aren’t right for your career plan. You can have the confidence that we will share insights and honest, transparent advice when it comes to the next step in your career and ensure you stay on track to achieve your long-term career goals.

At CSG, our team of consultants have a strong knowledge of the market and know the companies who offer excellent training and progression, competitive salaries, desirable benefit packages and supportive and attractive workplace cultures. Having these insights can be extremely beneficial when determining your next role and establishing the right fit for you, and your priorities. This is something our team at CSG have a wealth of experience in, working closely with a range of organisations in our specialist sectors, each with unique offerings for candidates.

If you need more guidance on how to take your career forward and to discuss your options, then ask a consultant within your specialist sector for some expert advice on what steps to take next and how to focus on your long term career plan, whether that be the next step up, or a lateral career move.