Being pigeonholed is often the flip-side of success, and as tempting as it may be to coast, you shouldn’t get complacent. As a career coach, the hardest clients to help are those who’ve spent years doing small variations of the same job. That’s a huge mistake—just like inflation’s impact on the economy, if your skills remain static, you’re actively losing value in the marketplace. And that can kill your prospects long term.
Here’s how to generate new opportunities for career advancement and move beyond your current position.
Force Perspective Into What You Do
You can’t blame someone for pigeonholing you if you’ve never explained your side of the story. People will take the path of least resistance—which usually means they’ll opt for a ready-made, limited way of categorizing someone. Here’s how to help an employer see another side of everything you have to offer:
1. Look at your career branding materials, specifically your resume and LinkedIn profile. Ask yourself: Am I focusing primarily on the why or the how? The vast majority of professionals make the mistake of describing how they perform their job—reviewing their skillset, experience, and core responsibilities. None of that goes to the heart of what you do.
Instead, consider the impact you had on the organization as a whole. How did you move the needle in surprising ways? What are 5-6 aspects of your career that paved a path forward? Make your bottom-line impact a cornerstone of your brand. Then you can use “how” statements to support the broader vision of your contributions.
2. You should also bring this expansive perspective to interviews and group meetings. If someone asks a “bread and butter” question, how you frame the answer (the setup) and wrap it up (the resolution) make all the difference. Give context for your response that helps show the far-reaching effects of your actions.
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Step Beyond Your Comfort Zone
If your current job doesn’t provide growth opportunities, step beyond it. Volunteer to participate in initiatives that touch on different divisions and functions within the company. Find a mentor who can give you a bird’s eye view of where you’re at now versus where you could go next. Take a few online courses to stoke the fire again. Become an explorer—put yourself into situations where you don’t automatically know what to do next. When you recalibrate your internal mindset, external changes will follow suit.
Be vocal about the initiatives you take. Send update emails to your boss that break down your accomplishments over the past thirty days, as well as the upcoming projects you want to focus on. These emails highlight your enterprises and will help you paint a comprehensive picture of what you do. They provide opportunities for your superiors to offer guidance based on the company’s current priorities, which could lead to expanding your influence within the company. Keeping records of each milestone also builds the foundation for pursuing a raise or promotion.
Position Yourself for Stretch Roles
If you don’t want to be pigeonholed at work, you’ll need to take a few risks. To progress your career, research your competition, starting one or two steps above your current role. Here’s the trick: Go to LinkedIn and look up the areas where you excel. Then, find a representative sample of keywords that describe skills you’d like to develop.
For example: Tom is a Senior Manager. He uses the following keywords on his resume: product management, go-to-market strategy, and business development. He researches people on LinkedIn who occupy positions he’d like to grow into—Vice Presidents, Directors, and Senior Directors. By sticking to the first few pages of results, he automatically narrows his search to professionals with the most visibility. From there, he finds a few keywords in common: strategic partnerships, project portfolio management, and business intelligence.
Now Tom knows these are the areas he needs to focus on if he wants to advance to the next level and earn the respect of his peers. He can also use these profiles to evaluate common themes, metric points, and other details he might be able to transfer to his branding material.
You have great ideas. Here’s how to get your boss to listen.
By following these steps, you’ll secure continued professional growth and advance your career. You can follow these guidelines during every stage of your professional journey—from job seeking to pursuing a promotion and negotiating a raise. The final step is to start building relationships with people who can get you the “in” at target companies. It’s possible to have a career that’s free of limitations if you advocate for yourself and know how to leverage your strengths. Most importantly, remember—you got this! Be confident in your choices and what you contribute to an organization.