Horizontal or Vertical Career Growth?

Career InsightDecember 31, 2020 14:05

Horizontal career move- move across different departments within a company, normally within a similar status tier and with comparable responsibilities. Example: you go from Marketing to Sales

Vertical career move- focusing on getting a promotion. Example: from Junior Engineer to Senior Engineer. 

Vertical growth is common. Majority of people would focus on getting a higher position. Typically, when you grow vertically in your career, you’ll be awarded a bump in pay and higher status at your company. Moreover, it encourages us to leverage our existing experiences and skills to climb in a vertical line up the corporate ladder. 

So, which one is better?

It depends. If you value constant growth in terms of payback because you need money for food, rent, and taking care of your family, you may be suitable for vertical growth, since horizontal growth typically means maintaining at your current salary.  To many, a horizontal move can look more like a transfer than a promotion due to the salary might not noticeably change. Besides higher status and pay, vertical career growth will gain you a lot of experience in your current role and make you an expert in time. Nevertheless, you might find yourself bored with your task after working in the same field year after year. You won’t challenge yourself or learn new things since you stick to what you already know.

Then, what are the pros of a horizontal career growth?

The main benefits of horizontal career growth is being able to expand your skill set. Trying new roles and being regularly exposed to new skills, responsibility and knowledge can “anchor” yourself in the job market and lead to greater self-development. You’ll be more prepared for new challenges when changes come than someone who has only worked in a narrow job scope. 

Besides, it also allows you to discover your career interests. What if there is a position out there that is more fulfilling than your current one? What if your dream job lies in a neighboring division of your current company? Also, there is a possibility that the new one won’t be as fulfilling for you. According to the Harvard Business Review article, horizontal career growth makes companies fit better in dynamic markets as their employees have a wider outlook. However, frequently moving horizontally is not a good sign for a person’s career. Switching new roles regularly before getting into deep will not add value to the career. 

In conclusion, both career moves are equally important in a career. By aiming to reach the top of the paradigm is not enough. It doesn’t make a person a learner. Not to try skipping over the important milestones of your career just to get to the top quicker. The skills and experience you learn along the way will set the foundation of what you need to be successful later in your career.

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