After the first years of work, there is often a desire to continue to ascend. You work hard and want to show the boss that you have potential: get out of the standard business and get more responsibility.

“I work hard but I can’t get any further!”

I often hear from my readers that you work very hard and get a lot of praise, but do not get the promotion or professional recognition, e.g. senior consultant or staff position.

The problem is that you like this character in the hamster wheel. They work harder and harder and run faster and faster. But that’s what will never get you going. This is also shown by a recent study by McKinsey: Fair promotion is only available in theory.

Working in a hamster wheel – getting faster and harder (Image source:Pixabay)

T-Shaped Professional and the Lighthouse Theme

At the beginning of your job, you usually become a generalist and get a taste of numerous topics. Now we have to move forward and become a specialist.

My thesis: Often employees are very good generalists or have been carrying out an issue for many years, but they are not fully incorporated in depth.

It is important that you make a name for yourself with a beacon theme in the company, small talk or other occasion. A senior consultant always has a special theme that he can do very well. The advantage of such a topic is:

  • You can inspire people at conferences
  • In job interviews, hardly anyone can give you the water on this topic
  • They thus make their mark in the company and are role models for other

It is important to understand a topic really correctly and you do this “unfortunately” mostly in your free time. So, in the first step, find a topic and schedule some Sundays.

Reading tip: How to find a topic

Now collect literature on this topic try to understand the topic in depth. You can also get to know the most diverse perspectives on the topic, e.g. cloud in knowledge work, production or agility as a skill, skill or mindset. Be the expert! If you have read enough, you should exchange ideas with other experts and write technical articles and give lectures.

I have been able to find my subject easily through my doctorate and I am still dealing with it to this day. This type of generalization with a special theme is called T-Shaped Professional.

The horizontal crossbar stands for the broad knowledge, i.e. areas and skills to the right and left of your subject area, which extends in different directions or different areas. For example, I am very familiar with various areas of software development and infrastructure.

The basic pillar, i.e. the vertical line at the T, stands for special knowledge. Knowledge in this field is solidly anchored and goes deep. This has cost me a lot of reading, user group visits and conversations with experts.

My experience: You usually do not learn your T-Shape at work but have to gather yourself and this also costs some free time.

My tip: Download the template and build your own T-shape.

My very personal T-Shape (own representation)


My personal conclusion is: you have to break out of the hamster wheel yourself! You won’t get on if you keep doing exactly the same thing, just better and faster. According to a survey of 1000 workers, a promotion rarely has anything to do with good work. They should break new ground and continue to qualify. Specialization can be a good way to get promoted and make you a flagship for a topic.

Reading tip: Become a leader

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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