On Being Pigeonholed
Fast Company’s Cheryl Dahle offers four pointers to people so good at what they do that they inadvertently put themselves at risk of being defined by it, of being pigeonholed.
How do you develop the expertise to be known as the go-to guy or gal for certain projects or jobs without getting so tightly defined that you’re stuck working on the same project (or in the same industry) year after year? Is it possible to fly the pigeonholing coop? Most assuredly.
1. Think skills, not experience
2. Fight corporate inertia
3. Become a startup master
4. Seek the edge
I can relate. My last two and a half years as Business Director at Maisonneuve magazine encompassed all four of those “rules”. Mais was a startup without much corporate inertia and we were playing around the edges of what magazines are traditionally supposed to do – both editorially and with business projects (one of our holiday items was even described by a national newspaper as “the most audacious product from a magazine in memory”). I held one position but actually worked several jobs, each one drawing on rather different skill sets. As a generalist, this mix of job-scale multi-tasking with the nature of project work is exhilarating. Boredom seldom creeps in and learning new stuff is just an ongoing part of the job.
Question: “Pigeonhole” is almost always described as a negative, but is it not the ideal state for a proficient specialist? Why don’t we hear more career specialists professing their joy of finally being pigeonholed?