How to climb out of a job niche you feel stuck in

After years in one job or career, it can be hard to make a move. Unstick yourself with these simple strategies.

How to climb out of a job niche you feel stuck in

When you’re squarely in the middle of your career, you’ve probably spent significant time in one position or industry. This is great if you want to keep moving into more advanced positions within the same field. But if you’re yearning for something different—even a little bit different—all of that hard-earned experience can sometimes work against you.

“People start getting pigeonholed in whatever they’ve been doing after six or eight years in the same job,” says Cynthia Pong, J.D., a coach and facilitator with Embrace Change Consulting in New York City. “(What you want to do next)  could be a different subsection of the same industry or field, but if other people think it’s really different from the work you’ve been doing, you’ll face some pushback.”

That doesn’t mean a move isn’t possible. But you’ve got to lay some groundwork ahead of time, and you can’t just wing the interview. Try these tactics to land your next position, when it’s one that’s not a predictable next move on your career trajectory:

Expand your reach

Part of what’s gotten you stuck is that you’ve been cruising in one spot for a while.

“If you’re interested in moving up or across departments in the same company, it’s crucial to start talking to more people within the organization and in different departments,” Tak says. That way you can determine what projects you can help them with and how your input is helpful.

“A big part of being pigeonholed is that you’re not expanding outside of your comfort zone,” Tak says. “When you start to do things differently, others in your organization will sit up and take notice.”

Insert yourself into the conversation

Whether you’re looking inside your current company or branching out, the job interview shouldn’t be the first time you pop up in the industry or field you’re trying to crack open. Months before trying to make a move, start attending industry conferences and events and following its speakers and writers on social media.

“Find out what people are talking about, what books and articles they’re reading,” says Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., a success strategist and career coach in New York City. “Then you can talk about this kind of stuff on social media. I literally have clients who, with just some simple tweets like that, are getting recruiters looking at them with completely different eyes.”

Tweak your online presence

Along those lines, make sure your professional social media profiles support what you’re trying to do.

“Spruce up your profile so that it highlights all of the big wins, but choose your wording carefully so that it translates to both fields—your current, and the one you are interested in,” says Claire Tak, a content strategist and consultant in the San Francisco area.

When Tak jumped from the entertainment industry to the personal finance industry, this tactic helped her out. “The common denominator for me was the digital aspect,” Tak says. “I highlighted big campaigns I worked on and related them to potential projects I could spearhead in the personal finance industry.”

Get some face time

If you’re trying to land a position that isn’t an exact match on paper, it’s key to make some personal connections.

“Just about everybody uses the automated resume trackers…,  and recruiters often want candidates to be an exact square peg in an exact square hole,” says Elene Cafasso, president and founder of Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching in the Chicago area. “What you really need to do to be successful is get that voice-to-voice interaction.”

That means tracking down contacts on social media who are in the field you’re pursuing, or who know someone who is. It means talking to everyone you know about what you’re trying to do and why. “I know people who’ve gotten jobs by talking to their Starbucks barista,” Cafasso says. The right introduction is all it takes to get your foot in the door. 

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