MOST people at work will become the go-to person of the team for a particular skill or process. While this is a significant acknowledgement of your knowledge and skill, it is rare for a person to be promoted or given a raise because of just one particular talent. Success can come at a price especially when people only remember you for that one distinct skill set. Being pigeonholed into a particular talent can limit not only your professional development but also your personal goals.
To avoid being pigeonholed, take on projects where you will learn something new. You might be an expert in one aspect of your work, but there will come a time when you will need someone in your team, and they might not be available. Find time to learn the different processes and deliverables by your team so that when push comes to shove, you can do the work without dependencies.
If you feel you have learned everything you can in your team, ask to be assigned to a different department for a time so you can understand other parts of the organization. You can start by volunteering to be part of a cross-functional committee to be exposed to other groups. This will help you develop a network of colleagues you can tap for organization-wide events. And they might even give you the opportunities to learn a new skill, or even ask you to join their team in the future.
You can also start by volunteering in your own team especially when a team member needs help. You do not need to be an expert to help. Start by asking what they need you to do and from there, you can learn the ropes of the other tasks. This will show that your team can depend on you, and it shows your willingness to learn new things. Your team will not just think of you as someone who is an expert on just one task, but someone who is also dependable.
It goes without saying that you need to look out for new and emerging trends in your profession. Technology, regulations, and ways of working constantly evolve toward improving productivity, efficiency and quality of working conditions. Reading and attending conferences can help keep your ear to the ground for new developments so you can introduce best practices to your team. They will start to discover that you are not just a one trick pony, but someone who is invested in developing every facet of your profession.
When your manager gives you a new project which is outside your comfort zone, take it as an opportunity to learn something new. The mere fact that your manager is assigning you to a project means that they know you are capable of doing it. It also means that since they assigned it to you, they will be obliged to support you to its successful completion. Take it as an opportunity to learn more about your organization, and at the same time learn a new skill.
If your manager is not giving you new projects, talk to them about your professional aspirations. Your manager cannot help you take on new projects and responsibilities unless you tell them what you need. People often say that since they are the managers, they ought to know what you need. But managers are not mind-readers. You need to tell them what you want and need so that they will think of you when there are incoming projects and opportunities. Being relegated to one particular task can also be because of your own doing. Talk to your manager so you can broaden your horizon.
If your manager is not giving you learning opportunities, take the initiative to learn something new. Find out from your human resource department where you could go for training or available learning resources within the organization. You can also look for a leader who is willing to mentor you and help you learn more about your industry. There are also various online resources that you can use to learn a new skill or even a new hobby. The opportunity for learning only stops when you do.
You can also get out of your pigeonhole by sharing your knowledge and skill. Maybe the dependency on you as the only subject matter expert is because you are not sharing your expertise or process to others. Some people think that being the only one in the team who knows the skill or process makes them indispensable. While this may be true some of the time, you can become a liability especially if you have bad behavior. Instead of keeping it to yourself, you can document what you are doing, improve the process, and then teach others how to do it themselves. This shows that you can manage yourself and others, thus opening new opportunities for more responsibilities, or even a leadership role.
If your role is too specialized that you cannot be replaced and there is no room to advance your career, you might need to look for new work especially when it is impinging your goals. It is never too late to shift career or look for opportunities to advance other skills especially when your current job no longer supports your goals. You just have to take calculated risks so that you can align your job to your goals and have more opportunities to improve your skills.
Being pigeonholed does not mean that you are only good at one task. It is an acknowledgment of how good you are, but you need to show them you also have other skills. Your team needs to understand that you are more than what meets the eye, especially when all they remember is that one thing about you. You need to show them that while you are good at one thing, they can also depend on you for other things.
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