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I've been asked from time to time if you can specialize within the context of working a full time job.
Sure you can!
Will you benefit from doing so? Well, that's a lot more complicated question where the answer is: it depends.
Today I can give you one potentially useful idea about how you might specialize within a FTE environment.
My idea, which is something that worked for me, is not guaranteed to work for you, but it's based on a sound principle, which I might summarize thusly:
Don't negotiate for what you want. Use focused, generous service to make it obvious that you should be gifted what you want.
Yes, there is a time and a place for negotiation. But my experience as an FTE was always one of relative powerlessness, so maybe that's why I think the "serve, don't negotiate" principle might work better in the FTE context.
Obviously there are FTE situations where the employee has immense power, but I think that's the exception, not the rule.
So, what does focused, generous service so that you can specialize within an FTE context look like?
It looks like content marketing deployed to your co-workers.
I was working for a small agency that worked primarily for Microsoft around the time MSFT was getting Hyper-V ready to ship in 2007. I got really fascinated with Hyper-V, and I ended up kind of specializing in this platform.
The result was that I got first crack at anything my employer did involving Hyper-V. Whether it was writing a white paper or building Microsoft Learning content around Hyper-V, I was the "Hyper-V guy".
The "content marketing" I did was: trying to be helpful to others who were using Hyper-V.
Naturally, the company had a Sharepoint bit dumpster (shudder). So I set up a wiki there and documented everything I could about the still-early beta builds of Hyper-V. I documented common sticking points that I'd run across and solved.
Basically I made what I hoped would be a useful resource for my co-workers. And I "pushed" this content to them by emailing them when there were significant updates. Cause nobody was going to go dumpster diving in the Sharepoint wiki unless I told them there was something worth seeing there.
What I did to become the "Hyper-V guy" was super simple.
You'll notice that, like all platform specializations require to be successful, I (unwittingly) took advantage of a moment. The moment of the platform being new and there being an information deficit that I could fill and an ability I had to reduce risk for others by doing relatively the thankless work of making their lives easier by building a useful resource--a gift of knowledge--for them.