Hiring companies have a knack for putting people into narrowly defined, siloed roles. Candidates bring an in-demand skill and before you know it, they’re hired to carry out that specific responsibility. Yet, people are not narrowly defined, siloed automatons. We are all multi-faceted, multi-talented individuals with a broad skill set built from a wide-ranging set of life experiences.

Some companies get that about people and take proactive measures to leverage their employees’ multiple abilities. I once worked for a company that had a “career exposure” program, in which participating employees would be borrowed from their everyday roles a couple of half-days a week for a three-month period to work with an entirely different group in a very different capacity.

Many small, early-stage companies have a built-in career exposure model, in which everyone inherently wears multiple hats. It represents one of several principal allures in working for a young and agile company. But even in more structured environments, opportunities to expand one’s career landscape abound. One element of Bill Belichick’s mastery as head coach is to seek out players who can perform in multiple roles and multiple schemes. This makes for a more versatile team with added depth.

Yet, the onus isn’t all on the company to identify this multimodal maze for each employee. It behooves each candidate and existing employee to size up their skill set and identify additional tangential skills they could bring to the table. I’m not suggesting to reinvent, but rather extend.

In this record-breaking season in the Boston area, consisting of endless snow with no respite (and no place to put the snow), I’ve witnessed career extension firsthand. One of our neighbors, an accomplished mason, decided to extend his career in the winter. In the fair-weather months, he can be seen hauling bricks, wood, concrete and equipment from one job site to another. I think he does nearly as much driving as he does masonry work. Recently, for the winter months, he has attached a plow to his truck and has been driving all over town, doing contract plowing work. And given this winter’s offerings, I’m sure he’s making a pretty penny.

Even my own work as a search professional has brought career extension opportunities. Given my background, which has involved assessing countless thousands of resumes, I’ve extended my services to include writing executive resumes and bios.

There is a fine line, however, between career extension and trying to be all things to all people. Putting some focus around your multiple skills by tying a direct correlation between them, draws a far more credible picture than promoting any and all skills, hoping that one or two of them will resonate. I’ve seen resumes from candidates that are throwing tons of spaghetti against the wall. One candidate’s resume promoted him as Sales, Marketing, Pre-Sales Engineering, and Product Management. Impressive, diverse background of multiple competencies? Maybe. However, a hiring manager will take one look at that resume and for several reasons, instantly disqualify that candidate. In giving both resume and interviewing advice to candidates, I remind them that their career story needs to make sense. Its progression needs to be clear and digestible.

As a candidate or existing employee, planting the seeds for career extension must make sense, not just in terms of telling your career story, but also fitting in with the opportunity at hand. One way to ensure a fit with the company’s (extended) needs is to ask questions about the company’s growth strategy, execution challenges and business priorities. The answers will likely provide important clues on which of your extended abilities should be promoted and could be viewed as added value to the company.

Action items:

1. Establish your extended skills by starting with your primary role (e.g., Sales, Marketing, Software Development, Business Analytics, Finance, etc.). Then, map out, like rings around a bullseye, the tangential skills related to your primary role. Take it one or two more iterations, identifying tangential skills to your tangential skills. Before you know it, you’ll have a working list of extended skills that correlate to your primary competency. For any given career opportunity, you can pick and choose the ones to promote, based upon the company’s needs.

2. Your skill set and career story must be credible and make sense. Don’t try to impress hiring managers by throwing everything at them at once. When it comes to promoting additional skills, the law of diminishing returns crops up sooner than you think.

3. If all else fails, attach a plow to your truck and get out there. We need you!