Q. You want to move into management or a higher executive position, but you're so good at your current job that you're now defined by it. How can you find a way out of this pigeonhole?
A. Start with some self-reflection, says Michael L. Buckman, managing director of executive advisory services at the BPI Group, a management consulting firm in Chicago. You can't just walk into your boss's office and say, "I want a different job," so list for yourself your passions, skills and abilities and how those could translate to another position in the organization, he says. "Is there another role you really aspire to?" he asks. "And how will you, in that role, add value to the company?"
Once you determine where in the company you see yourself moving, create a plan to get there. Start by talking to your manager. Express your gratitude for all you've learned and accomplished and emphasize how much you value being a part of the organization, says Susan Battley, chief executive of Battley Performance Consulting in East Setauket, N.Y.
Be sure to come to the conversation with ideas about how to begin your transition. "Don't just say you feel your career needs to grow, because then you've put all this on your boss," Ms. Battley says. "Instead, say things like, 'I'm looking for opportunities to manage a team or have more exposure to customers.' "
Q. What if your boss is only reluctantly on board?
A. Your manager may have anxieties tied to a change like this, so be reassuring. Make it clear that you understand how heavily your boss relies on you and that you will help to find and develop a good replacement. Stress that "you are committed to the department meeting its goals and that you would never go off and leave him in the lurch," says Allan R. Cohen, a management professor at the San Francisco campus of Babson College.
Don't just talk about how this transition will benefit you; think about how it will benefit your boss, too. For instance, Professor Cohen says, note that the department "will look good for developing people who have an interest in wider aspects of the business. "
You should also meet with senior people at the company who can influence your boss, says John Beeson, principal at Beeson Consulting, a management consulting firm in Manhattan. "Let them know you feel frustrated and want a new role that allows you to spread your wings, but are also committed to the company," he says.
Q. In order to move into a different position at the company, you need to find opportunities to learn and demonstrate other skills. How do you do that?
A. If you've worked for the same person for years and are seen as the right-hand man or woman, you are probably known for executing strategy but not necessarily for developing it. Your boss can help find projects where you can take on a leadership role, Mr. Beeson says, and can schedule a briefing on those projects with senior managers to raise your visibility. Showcasing your skills and talents to a broader set of managers will keep you at the top of everyone's mind as positions within the company become available.
Ms. Battley suggests volunteering for a task force or a committee that deals with issues removed from what you're currently handling. In small companies, you can sometimes preview a possible new job by taking on a few tasks and getting a feel for it, she says.
Q. Who else, inside or outside the company, can help you make this transition?
A. Anyone who is influential in your organization or industry could help you achieve your goals, so meet with as many of those people as you can. "Tell them you are looking for some career guidance and ask for their input about the kinds of jobs and experiences you need to have," says Mr. Buckman of the BPI Group. They may not know you have an interest in a particular area or that you have certain valuable skills.
Try to include among your allies at least one person from human resources, Ms. Battley advises. The people in H.R. "know where vacancies are or can advocate for you if they know you're interested in gaining other skills," she says.
It's possible that you will receive feedback you didn't expect. "You could be told, 'That's a great idea, but it's not something that would fit here' or that the company doesn't really need what you're offering," Mr. Buckman says. That may signal that it is time to look for opportunities outside your organization.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.