Are you really good at your job but seem to be stuck in a position? Others may look to you as an expert and you may own the process, telling others what needs to happen. You may get a lot of positive feedback about what a good job you are doing. It may be hidden behind continued excellent performance reviews. But the reality is, when you become indispensable, this can limit your career and promotability. So although you think you are doing really well, you can’t figure out why you aren’t getting the next job. In fact, you’ve become too good to promote.
I was working with a woman in the early stages of her career. I mentioned that people who are irreplaceable are never promoted. The young woman used this as a reflection point for evaluating her own work. She realized that she continued to get excellent performance evaluations and that her manager highly valued her work. But she wasn’t getting opportunities to move beyond her current role; others were being promoted before her.
She wanted more but on reflection, she saw that her current approach wouldn’t yield that. This happens to many managers. They want more but are afraid to delegate or mentor because someone else will get better at their job. It’s fear-based. Many managers are worried about what will happen if someone else gets good at what they are good at. But this is the only way. We must let go of some of our areas of expertise – perhaps those that are the least rewarding, least visible, or least valuable to the company – and try something new.
The new could be a lot of different things. But it has to be something outside the realm of our expertise area or comfort zone. It needs to stretch us so we grow. The young woman above decided to take initiative and developed a project that would increase the profile of the company with clients. She managed the project herself, outside her typical responsibilities. The results far exceeded her expectations and, surprised her manager. She expanded her capabilities and others’ perception of what she was capable of. Instead of excelling at just her current job, she found ways to widen her own and others’ view of her capabilities.
Getting unstuck requires us first to notice, take a risk and then to start to think bigger. What do you notice about her story? How might you reframe the way you think about your job and role, experimenting with what you can do? How might you expand your universe of possibilities?
© Jodi Detjen, 2013