Considering a Cross-Functional Move?

Cathy Ellwood
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 2, 2013

At some point in your career, most of you will face the age-old dilemma of making a cross-functional move. It may be at the suggestion of your boss or mentor, which certainly warrants your consideration. Or, you might just find yourself bored and feel you need a change. Before making a move, you may want to consider the following.

Reasons. Are you doing this as part of an over-arching career plan? Will this give you skills that you need in the position you seek? How do you know? Have you discussed this with a trusted advisor or a person who actually understands the skills and capabilities needed today and in the future for the position you aspire to achieve? If you don't know how this fits into your career development plan and priorities, I'd recommend taking the time to put one together first.

Risks. Taking on a new role in an area that you know little about has risks. Your performance will be compared to experts in the area and your reviews may suffer, which can ultimately affect your income and maybe even your promotability. You may also make mistakes commonly made by novices. Or you may find that you don't particularly enjoy or excel in the new type of work. If you are risk-averse, you should think seriously about this before making the move. On the other hand, if you enjoy the challenge that comes with learning something new or if you have an advocate who is serious about investing in your development and is willing to stand behind you even if you don't succeed, you've probably done what you need to minimize the downside.

Reality. They say perception is reality. Whether we like it or not, it is. And even if we won't admit it, we all judge others based on what we see and experience. Changing others' perceptions can take time, particularly, if the perceptions are negative. Cross-functional moves provide opportunities to be seen in different lights. They can also help to show others skills and capabilities that you didn't know you had or that you didn't have a chance to demonstrate in your old role.

Relevancy. Theoretically, the more you know about your company and its value chain, the more valuable you are. In companies that are forced to "do more with less", it's increasingly important not to be considered a "one-trick pony". It's also important to make sure that the company needs the skills and capabilities you have to offer, not just today, but in the future. Cross-functional moves provide opportunities to increase your business perspective and knowledge. They can also better position you for career changes in the event that your organization needs to downsize.

Recognition. Making a cross-functional move can put the spotlight on you, particularly if the move is considered non-traditional. Higher level executives often are better informed about people who come into their organizations from different organizations and are often interested in your observations and recommendations for increasing efficiency and effectiveness. The extent to which you capitalize on this opportunity can have significant implications for your career and upward trajectory.

Rewards. Cross-functional moves show that you aren’t afraid of change. They also show you are willing to take a risk, both personally and professionally. Most organizations are looking for these values in the types of people they promote into leadership. Having experience in an area outside of your own comfort zone gives you an appreciation of the challenges other organizations face which provide you unlimited opportunities for addressing these challenges. Most important, cross-functional moves can be refreshing, fulfilling and fun. And isn’t that what our jobs should be about?

Cathy Ellwood is founder and managing principal of Ellwood Enterprises, a strategic consulting firm focusing on leadership and career development in the financial services industry.  

Readers are encouraged to respond to Cathy using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News' Women in Insurance Leadership program. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (1)

Excellent article. I think everybody at some point at least contemplates a career change and I like the holistic view Cathy shares.

Posted by: jheins | August 4, 2013 9:26 AM

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