Learning to Zig-Zag or Realizing that Success Isn’t Always a Straight Path

Posted on June 25, 2013 by


zig zag


The fastest point from A to B is a straight line, right? Not always.  Leaders recognize that in terms of career development, the best path is one that is focused on experiential learning and breadth of experience.  This means there may be lateral and forward motion, will little or no steps backward.  It can be a challenge explaining this during career development or planning meetings without killing someone’s spirit, but part of the HRM process is being honest about the path to success.

Lateral assignments don’t involve a promotion and/or salary increase.  Instead the functional area is changed, so that in essence, the movement is lateral.  The key to a successful lateral assignment is that it should provide experience in a different functional area that will support the overall career goal.  Further, a lateral can provide the opportunity to explore a different functional area if a change in career path is contemplated.  Finally, a lateral assignment may provide an opportunity to work under a different leadership team, increasing the number of advocates for the individual based on their performance.

While not always the ideal option, lateral assignments can be used to build bench strength, explore alternative career paths and build additional support in the form of advocates.  Because there is value in the use of lateral assignments, it helps to learn how to zig-zag because the straight path isn’t always available or the best option.