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Career Hack: Move Sideways

Career Hack: Move Sideways

A week or two ago, during review time, the boss said to me, “If you want to move up in the company, you’re going to have to do _____.” I think I shocked him when I said, “Oh, I don’t want to move up. I like moving sideways.”

Jobs used to be about seeing how far one could climb the ladder. You’d put in your time, pay your dues, and if you were lucky, you’d move forward up into the next slot, shortly after your boss retired, died, or otherwise moved out of your runway. For lots of places, this is still pretty much the norm. But it doesn’t have to be the norm for you

Look Sideways

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Are you an engineer in a software company? How does project management sound? Are you a project manager? Try product management or program management. Maybe you’re ready to make a huge shift sideways. You could go from your role in your current vertical to the same role in a completely different industry. What would a move from technology into public service do for you?

Curriculum Vitae/Resume Difference

One difference in this lateral move business is that your resume might end up feeling scattered. It becomes important to select your moves in such a way that it appears you have a plan in mind. What does a move from project manager to QA manager tell your next employer? It might look at first blush as a retreat or a retrenching. It’s important to craft your resume to match the story of your moves.

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Open New Markets

With everyone else considering an upward move — from contributor to manager, for instance– you have an opportunity to compete differently. You can position yourself for roles that might seem lateral or otherwise off-track for your colleagues, thus leaving it more open for you. Turning yourself into a lateral thinker gives you opportunities to shop your credentials around into markets that others aren’t necessarily eying.

You are NOT Your Title

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Really a post in itself, it’s important to consider the fact that you are not simply your title. Sure, if you are a Certified Public Accountant, that gears you towards a specific profession. But for the lion’s share of technology workers, don’t let your current and past titles get in the way. Look from the perspective of what you can do as related to your skills, not for a match to a job title.

Power Up Your Skillsets

Because you are already a lifelong learner (you are, right?), taking new courses and programs to enhance your lateral move skills is a great plan, too. Are you a database administrator? Take a small business course and a finance course to try and round out your business understanding. Do you work in education? See what opportunities to expand your super powers exist when you enhance your technological understanding. Start a podcast to accompany your courses, for instance.

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This time feels somewhat unique in the way employees use corporations and the way corporations consume employees. The old way of doing things might work in some of the more Byzantine burocracies that still exist (say, certain government offices), but even there, I bet that someone moving laterally through the ranks will take the structure by surprise, and might just enable interesting future changes for you.

What are your lateral hacks?

–Chris Brogan is now on staff at Lifehack.org. He writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com], and he is starting a content network at GrasshopperFactory.com.

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The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

It’s also unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.

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Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

But it’s not about that. Not at all.

Here’s what it actually is, as defined by Mann:

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“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

The Fake Inbox Zero

The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

Certainly by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”. You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero. However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero? Have zero inboxes.

The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it. So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention. You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. that’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It’s allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

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The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to. There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

Stop Faking It

Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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