Creative Nine-to-Five: Branching Out While Punching In

Gilat Ben-Dor, MBA, CSW

You are a successful professional with all the trappings. Perhaps you have an engraved award sitting on your office shelf. You are regularly interviewed for your industry’s journals. Bottom line: You are well-established in your field, and you are widely known for That Thing You Do.

And yet…

You are starting to grow restless. You are ready to move ahead, branch out, explore additional options. Perhaps you even feel pigeonholed by the recognition for this one narrow topic. Why? Because you know that there is so much more to who you are, and you would truly like to share these other talents—and become known for them, too!

The good news is that you do not have to turn your back on that recognized Thing You Do to in order to expand into new territories. If you are employed with an organization, then you already have a built-in “laboratory” in place for your self-expansion strategy. Here are some tips to get you started on branching out while still maintaining your current position, organization, or industry:

1. Get extremely clear. Figure out what it is you want to do more of:  Which additional talents or interests would you like to express? Be as specific as possible. If you say, “I love people,” or, “I want to use my creativity,” what types of roles or projects might that translate into?

2. Choose your adventure. What will this initiative look like on your career map? Do you want to branch out but stay within your company? Go a bit broader, but stay within your industry? Do you need to change industries altogether to accomplish this goal?

For example, Elizabeth is an accountant at a major pet food corporation, but she longs to use more of her marketing talents and her people skills. She realized that public relations would be a great outlet to showcase her desires. Some of Elizabeth’s options may include:

a. Staying in her accounting position but get to know the company’s PR department, and see if there are any openings available in the future.

b. Staying in her accounting position and explore volunteer opportunities in PR outside of work. For example, since Elizabeth also loves dogs and is already working for a pet food company, she might enjoy joining the PR or marketing committee of an animal welfare charity.

c. Phasing into her own PR or marketing firm as a side business in addition to her current job.

While you may start out assuming you will stay in your current track, it is important to keep all options open when brainstorming. If an entrepreneurial option calls out to you, explore it accordingly.

3. Establish strategic alliances at work. Once you have decided on your goal, work backwards from your desired outcome and see who and what you will need to get you there. Which departments would you like to become more involved with? Which individuals could be key contacts for you? Build rapport with individuals over lunch or coffee, but remember to avoid appearing as if you are unhappy or restless in your current position.

4. Network, network, network. Read local calendars, publications and online networking websites to find quality events. Your time is precious, so choose carefully which events appear to serve your purpose.  Don’t forget to consider professional associations, which typically have monthly meetings and are usually open to guests. Remember: have fun with your exploration! Allow yourself to attend an association event for a niche of interest, regardless of whether it is part of your current role.

5. Find a mentor. Mentors aren’t just for newbies in the field; a mentor can be a trusted peer who is established in another department or industry, who can share knowledge and advice about your endeavor. Even if you regularly network, a mentor can provide you with the in-depth connection that a whole slew of acquaintances might not. If you desire even greater involvement and accountability, seek out a qualified professional coach who is accustomed to facilitating successful transformations.

6. Map it out. There is evidence that seeing your goals in writing or imagery can greatly help it become fact. If you enjoy the written word, write down this career goal, in very specific terms: What will your ideal responsibilities include? What types of projects will you be working on? How will your lifestyle change by incorporating these new roles? Remember to include deadlines or timeframes with your goal-setting.

 If you prefer the visual method, create a vision board with cut-outs of photos, quotes, and meaningful words, which you can collage as a mosaic of your ideal outcomes and new roles.

No matter which path you choose, know that branching out and revealing more sides of yourself is something to be celebrated!  You are a key player with many valuable facets that can become just as recognizable as the one on your office trophy.

Gilat Ben-Dor, MBA, CSW is an author, speaker, coach, and the creator of GUSTO POWER™, a success strategy program that helps Multi-Passionate Professionals™ maximize their many talents through personal and professional development. Visit for your FREE report,“The 5 Mistakes Multi-Passionate Professionals Make.”

© Gilat Ben-Dor, 2010-2011.

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