After the first few years of work, there is often a desire to advance further. You work hard and want to show the boss that you have potential: Get out of the standard business and take on more responsibility.

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

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

The problem is, you’re just like that character in the hamster wheel. You work harder and harder and run faster and faster. But that is exactly what will usually never get you any further. This is also shown by a recent study by McKinsey: Fair promotion only exists in theory .

The work in the hamster wheel – always faster and harder (Image source: Pixabay )

T-Shaped Professional and the lighthouse theme

At the beginning of your job you will usually become a generalist and get a taste of numerous topics. Now it is important to move forward and become a technical expert.

My thesis: Employees are often very good generalists or have been working on a topic for many years, but are not fully integrated into it.

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

  • You can get people excited about you at conferences
  • In job interviews, hardly anyone can hold a candle to you on this topic
  • This will help you distinguish yourself in the company and set an example for others

It is important to really understand a topic correctly and “unfortunately” you usually do that in your free time. So the first step is to find a topic and plan a few Sundays.

Reading tip: How to find a topic

Now collect literature on the subject trying to understand the subject in depth. You will also get to know the most varied of perspectives on the topic, e.g. cloud in knowledge work, production or agility as a skill, skill or mindset. Be the Expert! When you have read enough, you should exchange ideas with other experts and write specialist articles and give lectures.

I was able to find my topic easily through my doctorate and I still deal with it today. This type of generalization with a special topic is called T-Shaped Professional.

The horizontal crossbar stands for that 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 main pillar, i.e. the vertical line at the T, stands for Special knowledge . The knowledge in this area is solidly anchored and goes in depth. That cost me a lot of reading, user group visits and discussions with experts.

My experience: You usually don’t learn your T-shape at work, but have to pull yourself up and that also costs some free time.

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

My very personal T-shape (own illustration)


My personal conclusion is: You have to break out of the hamster wheel yourself! You will get stuck if you keep doing the same thing over and over, only better and faster. A promotion also has noisy a survey of 1000 employees rarely to do with good work. You should break new ground and gain further qualifications. A specialization can be a great way to get promoted and make you the figurehead for a topic.

Reading tip: Become a manager


Image source: Business photo created by katemangostar –


I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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