Career Speedbump No. 2 – Being too good
There’s something to being the best in your field. Being ‘so good they cannot ignore you’ as Cal Newport once said. When you put in the hours and are so good at your field that there is no one who could replace you easily, you’re a ‘lynchpin’ as Seth Godin put it.
If you work in an organization, this could become an issue though.
Zig Ziglar gave some contrary advice that’s also important to keep in mind. “If you’re irreplaceable, you’re un-promoteable”. I’ve dealt with it in my own career and have seen it countless times, an employee or manager who is so vital in their role that removing them from it is unthinkable because of the disruption. This is wacky business logic to be sure because it creates the scenario that the only way for this critical contributor to stay relevant in their career is to leave. “Up means Out” is a bad business plan, and it’s all-too-common insanity.
So, without compromising your work ethic, what can you do? How do you stay on your game when you’re the keystone keeping the roof up?
You do it by being prepared to be hit by a bus.
Not literally ‘hit by a bus’, but hypothetically ‘hit by a bus’. This is shorthand from the IT field, specifically Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR). Keeping technology running is easier, relatively speaking, than dealing with human factors that impact BC/DR.
To prepare for your hypothetical unavailability, which you can also use to train some else to do your job, be certain to:
- Document all your critical information regarding vendors, accounts, contacts
- Document your processes, including dates when recurring functions happen
- Build up your network internally and externally, cross-training others to assist when you’re not around (like when you get that promotion)
- Document any development opportunities that are presented and take good notes that can be shared
- Remember this rule: If it is important to running the business and only exists in your brain, find a secure place to write it down so others have it when they need it. Do NOT be a silo.
The bonus of all this: you have a record of all that you do for your employer that you can use during your review. You can also use it to boost your confidence and write your resume if you are shown that you’re going nowhere fast.