Career Transition

Are You Too Valuable to be Promoted? 3 Ways to Escape this Trap | Promotion and Performance Series

too valuable to be promoted

Here’s a new definition of “infuriating” for you to consider: when your hard work actually sabotages the goal you’re pursuing. Many high-performers are currently caught in this Catch-22, routinely delivering excellent work….only to hear the same refrain from their boss: “I’d love to promote you, but you’re too valuable where you are.” Effectively, you are being told that you are too valuable to be promoted.

Crazy, right? But look at it from the other side. Your boss may very well feel that you’re overdue for a promotion. But if he or she actually pulls the trigger, they have to figure out the mechanics of both transitioning you to a new role, AND filling the vacuum you’ve left behind. And for those of you at the very apex of performance, that could mean facing the reality that NO ONE PERSON can currently do everything you’re doing. Hence…no promotion.

Here are the actions you can take to get out of this trap:

3 Ways to Escape Being Too Valuable to be Promoted

1) Scale Up Your Brand.

No matter how much you’ve accomplished at your current job, you’re still carrying around a bit of the first impression you made during the hiring process. Which means that even though you’re currently operating at a Senior Director or VP level, your boss still sees you as that junior manager who joined up so long ago.

It is up to YOU to correct this image.

Ask yourself the following:


Also read: 5 Signs You’re Not Ready for Promotion | Promotion and Performance Series


-What’s my ideal role at this juncture? Hop over to LinkedIn and study the profiles of people with similar skill-sets and backgrounds to create a list of 7-10 closely related roles. Be SPECIFIC here!

-What kind of a professional brand (read: Resume and LinkedIn) do I need to build to CREDIBLY secure these types of roles? Study both the Linkedin Profiles of the top 1-3% of your competitors (those who show up in the first page or two of search results) as well as job postings to figure this out. For example, a Manager’s brand will probably be heavily focused on execution and metrics-driven accomplishments. But at the executive level, STRATEGY and VISION play a much bigger role, and it’s important to re-frame accordingly.

-What are the competencies of your next role that are DIFFERENT from your current job? These are the areas that you need to begin actively developing right now, and highlight within your brand.

Don’t be secretive about the updates you’re making. Boss notices that your LinkedIn profile looks sharper? Good! And the next time the promotion question rears its head, COME IN with the new brand materials. This says two things: 1) you’re deeply committed to moving forward, and understand what’s required at this new level, and 2) if they won’t accommodate you, another company will.

2) Make Yourself Replaceable!

Having high standards is a good thing. Where it becomes problematic is when you refuse to delegate anything because “it’s just easier to do it myself.” This is a huge problem when promotion time rolls around, because the more aspects of your job that you have successfully delegated and documented, the easier your rising up will be!

So stop this pattern. Start keeping a detailed log of your daily and weekly activities, and mark out those which can be delegated to direct reports. Write out step-by-step instructions where necessary. And yes, keep your boss apprised of what you’re doing.

What makes someone truly irreplaceable isn’t the number of tasks they handle, but the strategic contributions they make. Your “1-man army” approach is not the way to get there.


Also read: Promotion and Performance Series: Letter from the Editor


3) Aggressively Ramp Up a Job Search.

Yes, aggressively. Every additional year you spend at a company means leaving at least 7% in additional earning power on the table. And that’s ASSUMING a regular series of promotions and pay bumps. Utilize payscale resources like Glassdoor and Payscale.com to identify the salary range at the roles you’re currently after. Now compare it to what you’re currently making. Is any further motivation really necessary?

So start building bridges with key decision-makers at companies you’re interested in working with. Initiate dialogue with recruiters who specialize in placing candidates in your niche. Get written offers on the table, and again, don’t be afraid to let your boss know that you’re considering other offers (and WHY you’re doing so).

Either you move onto greener pastures, or your current employer makes the changes necessary to keep you on. Either way, you’ve created a better outcome for yourself. There should be no such thing as too valuable to be promoted. Your job is to make your employer see that you are too valuable not to be.

Do not EVER settle for anything less!

About the Author

Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at HelloAnish.com, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.