How to Prevent Being Pigeon Holed in Your Career

How to Prevent Being Pigeon Holed in Your Career

Being too good at your job can come with the risk of being pigeonholed. Here’s how you avoid it.

Picture this: you are an experienced professional and are pretty good at your job. You consistently deliver high-quality work. But, instead of being rewarded for your hard work and professionalism, you keep getting the same task assigned to you again and again. There’s no logical promotion lined up for you because you’re so good that you’ll be hard to replace. This is what it’s like to be pigeonholed.

Being pigeonholed is a side effect of being successful at your job, and it can also be the death of your career in the long run. Being put in the same box over and over means there is no way to develop your skills any further. If you want to avoid this scenario from coming to fruition, here are some helpful tips you can consider applying to your professional life.

Discuss the situation with your manager

One of the best ways to get out of the pigeonhole is to discuss the direction of your career with your manager in a one-on-one meeting. This gives those in leadership positions an idea of what you want. It tells them that you have bigger ambitions than what your current role permits, which would, in turn, make them consider you when the company needs someone for the roles you are vying for. Make sure to communicate in such a way that you express your goals for the future without making it seem like you are unhappy in your current job role.

Go beyond your job description

To show your eagerness for greater responsibility, you should be on the lookout for opportunities. For instance, if you hear things like “someone should look into that” or “I can’t get to that task within the stipulated time”, then you can volunteer for such tasks. If you don’t hear about any tasks you can help with, you can also actively ask your manager. Say something like, “Is there anything I can help out with?” If you perform well on these tasks, the manager would know that you are capable of more than what is being assigned to you currently. 

Level up your skills

Another great thing you can try out is sharpening your skills. To do so, you can log onto sites like LinkedIn and look for people currently in a role you would like to grow into. Then, you should look at the keywords they are using to describe themselves and focus on improving in those areas. So, let’s say you are a writer like me and want to become an editor in the future. You can look at editors on LinkedIn and focus on the keywords you see in their profiles, such as proofreading, news aggregation and analysis. Make sure to look at more than one profile so that you can find the common themes and create a clear pathway for yourself to follow.

Build connections

The last tip on this list is to build stronger relationships at the workplace. Networking with your co-workers and those in the management can be a great way to rise the ranks. The higher the number of people who like you and trust your work, the easier it will be to get out of the pigeonhole. If you actively communicate with your peers, they will see what you are like beyond your role. This would also make you come across as a team player, which is a highly coveted soft skill at most workplaces. 

So why do people get pigeonholed in the first place?

You can get pigeonholed for any number of reasons. Perhaps, you are overqualified for your current role. Or, you have spent far too much time in a job and ended up outgrowing it. Sometimes, you can even pigeonhole yourself by making no effort to branch out or leave the job/role. Another culprit behind pigeonholing is the lack of a clear vision for your career or being unable to express that vision to those around you. 

Ultimately, being pigeonholed is a byproduct of sticking to your comfort zone. As long as you are willing to go out of your comfort zone and show an eagerness to learn, you can avoid getting stuck in a mold. And doing this is crucial, particularly in today’s disruptive economy where many major companies are laying off people left, right and center. 

When applying our tips to the real world, make sure to still give your 100% to your current role so that you don’t come across as unreliable or unproductive. Finally, remember that the perception your employer has of you was built over a long period. Thus, it would take just as long to change it. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik.


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