13 Tips to Avoid Getting Pigeon-holed in Your Career


Are you getting pigeon-holed in your career? Are people perceiving you just as the person on the corner? In that case, your career is managing you and not the other way around. Here are 13 tips for you (Follow these and you won’t need another career management book or a coach):

  1. Nurture your toolbox. Learn something beyond your field of specialization.
  2. Perception is reality. After some time at your job, people will start perceiving you as a person with a certain type of skill set and that is natural. Try to go beyond that “perception.” Do not be just a writer or a receptionist or a sales rep. Do not get pigeonholed. Go beyond that and prove yourself as a leader.
  3. Navigate the road ahead. Establish your career goals for the next five, ten or 20 years.
  4. If you are a fundraiser, numbers and the quality of your achievements matter more than administrative skills. In corporate philanthropy, try to build individual portfolios.
  5. Get a mentor who is honest.  And, when you become a leader, mentor others and invest in the success of your staff.
  6. Show documented success in your résumé. What have you done in a tangible way? What story does your résumé tell?
  7. Do not be a job hopper. Moving jobs every 18 months and saying you played an important role in the “strategic growth” of your organization is BS.
  8. When you join a firm, you have an institutional obligation. Try to fulfill that before you make your next transition.
  9. Personal recommendations matter.
  10. Try and find “fit” when you look for a new job. Interview the prospective employer as much as they interview you.
  11. Always avoid three things: 1)Repeat acts of incompetence. 2)Ethical violations. 3)Mistreatment of colleagues and supporters. You will not have a career anymore.
  12. Volunteer experience adds value to your résumé and so does an entrepreneurial spirit.
  13. Finally, the grass is not always greener. When someone hires you, they take a leap of faith in  you. You do too.

These tips came from the collective wisdom of over 50 top University fundraisers in an over-filled session at a recent Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) annual conference for corporate and foundation relations officers held in New York, June 8, 2012. The session was expertly moderated by Dondi Cupp, Associate Vice President for Development, University of Michigan.

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