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Why a lateral job jump might be a smart strategy

(MoneyWatch) Feeling stuck? A lateral job move may feel like a failure to progress, but in some situations it could actually be a smart strategic move. Here are three scenarios when you should consider making this type of transition:

Your job is in jeopardy
If you see the writing on the wall, you may not want to wait if a similar position opens up elsewhere. "If you are about to be laid off -- or are already unemployed -- and need immediate cash flow, then a lateral move provides a fresh start. Reestablish stability, then get back onto the career track," suggests Meg Montford, executive career coach and president of Abilities Enhanced.

You're stuck on the corporate ladder
Not learning anything? Not seeing any opportunities at your current company? "A lateral move can open new doors if the person is able to learn new skills and transfer to an environment that has more opportunity," says Cheryl Palmer, founder of Call to Career, a career coaching firm. Learning these new skills may translate into you being a more desirable candidate for a promotion (either with the new company, or elsewhere).

You're really, really miserable
No one performs better when they're severely stressed out and unhappy, so if you truly hate your current gig, getting out without getting a title or pay promotion may be worthwhile. "But take the time to evaluate your personal responsibility in the current situation, so your own mistakes don't get repeated. Also, closely evaluate the potential employer to ensure you don't fall into any similar, uncomfortable work environments," notes Montford.

So if your career makes you feel like you're butting your head against a brick wall, don't be afraid to step back and evaluate all your options. "It might be helpful to think of it in terms of an analogy. If you are stuck in a traffic jam, and it may be hours before you are able to move forward, it makes sense to change lanes and exit on a side road where you can more quickly navigate around the traffic jam. Sitting in the traffic jam and fuming doesn't get you anywhere."

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