How to Make a Horizontal Career Move in Tech
There comes a point in many people’s careers where things start to feel humdrum. Perhaps you’ve been in the same role for so long that you can do everything on autopilot. Maybe you feel there’s more you can do beyond your job description. This is the perfect time to stop and reflect on your options, one of which may be to make a horizontal career move. The typical career trajectory of moving up the corporate ladder is no longer the only option, and a horizontal career move is just as valid of a progression, especially for tech professionals.
Horizontal moves across tech roles can greatly increase your value to an organisation and equip you with a diverse skill set. You may move from working as a developer in the sales department to tackling similar challenges for the marketing team instead, allowing you to gain a better understanding of how different departments relate to one another and utilise technology in different ways.
Do you feel like you’re ready to make a horizontal move in your tech career? Here’s how we suggest taking action.
The benefits of a horizontal career move
- Better chance of promotion or raise: By picking up skills across different departments, you increase your visibility and value in the eyes of the company. This can help you obtain a managerial role in the near future, as having varied experience under your belt develops your technical and business acumen.
- Career development: Of course, it almost goes without saying that a horizontal career move is a brilliant way to develop your career, particularly if you have just entered the workforce. You’ll be able to sample different roles and develop a broad repertoire of skills that will prevent you from being pigen-holed into a specific role later down the line.
- Skill development: By working in different capacities, you’ll develop a strong and diverse skillset. The high exposure to different technologies can also help you future-proof yourself as an employee and remain valuable in an increasingly digitised workforce.
- Make a positive impression: By showing a consistent desire to improve yourself and develop your skillset, both your existing employer and prospective employers will have a favourable impression of you. In a workforce increasingly focused on upskilling, your passion for learning and growth will immediately make you an attractive candidate. This will naturally make you highly employable no matter where you choose to take your career.
- A fresh perspective: Changing up the scenery allows you to gain different perspectives through working with new people and teams. This allows you to connect the dots between different departments and see the bigger picture underpinning projects.
Risks of a horizontal career move
However, a horizontal career move in tech comes with some risks worth acknowledging.
- A horizontal move doesn’t always guarantee a higher pay. To give yourself the best chance of getting a raise, research the market value of your new role to see if you can negotiate something close to this.
- Success is also not guaranteed. The grass may look greener in another department, but there’s always a chance you were actually better suited to your previous role. However, don’t let this discourage you – many employers will be perfectly happy to let you return to your old role if you change your mind.
Steps to make a horizontal career move
If you’re certain that you want to make a horizontal career move and are not treating it as a quick fix for being unhappy in your current role, here’s how you can take steps to make the change.
- Research the role you are after. Try to find out as much as you can about what the role looks like day-to-day, how much training you’ll need to catch up with others, and what perks come with the role. For example, you may be after a role that allows for a lot of flexibility or remote work. Arranging some meetings with colleagues in similar roles is a good way of doing some insider research.
- Assess your current skillset. There is a nation-wide shortage of ICT skills, so as a tech professional, you are well poised to showcase your skills, especially those that are highly transferrable and in-demand.
- Fill any skill gaps. In order to give yourself the best chance of success in your new role, it’s well worth plugging in any skills gaps you may have. Grasp every learning opportunity that comes your way, whether that be having coffee with an industry leader you admire, attending events, networking, participating in hackathons, or pursuing further education. Hackathons in particular are a great upskilling channel for tech professionals, giving you a safe space to experiment in new technical roles and expand your network. You’ll develop highly sought-after communication and problem solving skills while also trying your hand at tasks that could inform your new choice of career.
Consider whether you want to make an internal or external move
Internal and external moves come up with their own pros and cons. If you are after an internal move, start by having an open communication with your manager about any opportunities they may know of. Make sure you clarify that you are choosing to stay with the company and simply wish to develop your career in a different department. Focusing on how the company will benefit from your move also increases your chances of succeeding, so make sure to talk about the positives of diversifying your skillset. Your manager may be able to help you shadow existing roles so you can narrow down which role you find most suitable.
If this doesn’t work out or you are otherwise wishing to leave the company, there are plenty of opportunities to make an external horizontal move within tech. In fact, according to the 2018 Stack Overflow Global Developer Hiring Landscape report, a third of developers want to change up their role in the next five years. Opportunities abound – how will you make the most of it?
In Industry 4.0, those who don’t equip themselves or their organisations with the relevant skills will simply fall by the wayside. Ai Group Talent Solutions help individuals future-proof themselves.
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