Here’s a common scenario: You’re good at your job. So good, in fact, you’ve practically become irreplaceable. Your boss can’t imagine trying to get by without you.
It’s a nice place to be, right?
Sure, everyone wants to be valued at work. But there is such a thing as being too valuable. If you’re not careful, you can work yourself into a tough situation. When you’re ready to advance to a higher-level position, you may find it all but impossible. After all, if you’re so valuable where you are, what incentive does your boss have to support your growth?
Those who have been pigeonholed in the past can surely relate to this scenario. But what’s the alternative? Should you try to be less valuable? That doesn’t make sense!
Here’s the simple truth: You should absolutely focus on doing a great job in your current role. Become a highly valued, critically important part of the team. Good leaders will want to see their best performers grow within the organization, and they’ll understand that your continued success is also a positive reflection on them.
However, not-so-good leaders do exist, and they may not see it like this. If you encounter a leader who is possessive and competitive and fearful of losing his or her star player, you have some important steps to take to prevent getting stuck.
- Talk to your manager about your career goals
This should be an ongoing conversation that starts as early as possible. You don’t want to suddenly surprise your manager with your desire for growth. Instead, it should be laid out on the table for honest discussion. Inquire as to what skills you should focus on improving to position yourself for advancement, and ask for your manager’s support in getting there. Obviously, you want to remain committed to your current role, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also create plans for the future. With regular dialogue of this nature, you’ll reduce the chances that your manager will become unreasonably dependent on you.
- Cross train others
Most managers fear the potentially enormous gap that will be left when their star players move on. They’ll lose the experience, skills, and institutional knowledge that simply can’t be learned quickly. As a result, the entire team may suffer a painful lag in performance while a new hire gets up to speed.
You can help prevent this concern by documenting procedures and cross-training team members on the most critical components of your role. Don’t worry about protecting your territory here. You’ll still own these items and you’ll still probably be the best at handling them. You’re just making sure things don’t come to a screeching halt when you’re gone. This can offer real peace of mind for your manager and your team.
- Explore other organizations
Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that you can’t be held hostage. If your current manager isn’t supporting your growth within the organization, you may want to explore outside opportunities. Most managers should understand that this is a real possibility—and they should be willing to support your advancement rather than lose you altogether. But some simply don’t think it through.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for career growth but feel trapped in your current role, you may find that your talents are more valued at another organization. You don’t want to land in this situation again, so focus on larger companies. They inherently have more growth opportunities and are generally more supportive of employee mobility.
No matter what, don’t allow your career dreams to be shattered simply because you’re too valuable where you are.