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The power of lateral moves in your in-house legal career

Making a lateral career move is often the last thing lawyers want to do, but ironically it can be the best way to elevate one's legal career and is no longer taboo.

"There's a common school of thought that any job move has to be a promotion, but I've often learned the most from lateral moves," says Seshani Bala, General Counsel at KPMG New Zealand. She points out that "filling the gaps" in your professional toolkit is essential to career development, and sometimes a new role with a more senior title doesn’t always do the trick.

For instance, specific skills such as innovation intelligence, relationship management, communication, specialist industry knowledge or business literacy aren't necessarily gained by rising through the ranks. Moving to a similar role in a different country, industry or type of company can provide invaluable experience with different services or products, or lessons on how to navigate a big corporate versus a rapidly growing start-up.

"Being pushed outside of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to new experiences doesn't always come with a fancy title," says Bala. She points out that people are often dismissive of moving laterally in business, but if you think strategically a lateral career move can be akin to a long-term investment. "Be less afraid of that, and take opportunities because things aren't black or white, up or down."

Whatever career move you make, you can also change paths and diversify your skillset, so be open-minded to the benefits of lateral movement and don’t have tunnel vision on vertical progression – there are heaps of options!

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