If it’s a primary goal in your life to have a successful career, you probably put in a lot of hours at work. Different people do different things with those hours. Some try to stay connected constantly in the hope that their devotion will be noticed.
I’ve talked before about why that’s a trap. In addition to burning you out, it often forces workers into a position where they are not replaceable. How can that be a bad thing, you ask? Who wants to be replaced?
You should. Not right now of course, but when you need a vacation or some other kind of break someone should be able to step in. You shouldn’t be the only one capable of doing the work you do. No matter how great you are at your work, if you can't be replaced, it’s harder to get promoted. Too often, employees who excel in a certain role get passed over for advancement because they've made themselves essential in their current position. Here are some ways to tell if you've unknowingly pushed yourself into this corner.
1. You Can't Take A Break
If you feel like you can't afford to take a vacation because the whole office would shut down, that's a bad sign. As I mentioned, there needs to be someone capable of taking on your daily responsibilities for a short time. Not only does this situation sound like quite a stressful burden to bear, it’s bad for your career potential, and it's bad for the company. What happens if you have a family emergency or an illness and end up missing significant time?
2. You Get Pigeonholed
It’s always advisable to avoid becoming stuck in too narrow a job description. If you truly excel at your role, your boss might be tempted to have you focus only on that one thing, which can hold you back from advancing into management roles. Make an intentional effort to discuss your broader goals with your supervisor, work on other projects, and get a more well-rounded experience.
If you get the sense that your current boss isn’t receptive to your managerial aspirations, it’s time to consider leaving. Although it can be time consuming, keep abreast of the job market. A new employer will see you as a fresh face, not someone who they’ve already pigeonholed into one particular position. It might just be that you need a fresh start.
3. You're Overburdened
If you've established yourself as a reliable employee, you might wind up getting more and more work placed on your desk. If the boss is leaning on you to do extra work, that may just make it even harder for you to be replaced, and it gets your head stuck in the weeds rather than looking at the bigger picture.
4. They Won't Hire New People
This goes along with the last sign. If your workload keeps increasing but the boss won't hire anyone else to help pick up the slack, that's a sign they plan to rely heavily on you in your current role and not promote you to a more meaningful position. This is yet another reason to always keep abreast of current jobs available in your profession.
5. You've Stopped Learning
Never stop learning. Be inspired by new ideas. If you've figured out everything there is to do with your job, and the company is not giving you the opportunity to work on new projects or learn new skills, it's going to be difficult to advance. If you stop learning, that's not just bad for your career, it's bad for your own mental health and happiness.
6. Your Schedule Is Full And Rigid
Ideally, a schedule should provide some flexibility. You want to have time to creatively brainstorm, pursue new ideas or simply meet with colleagues. A schedule full of work with no room to follow your own path leads to a dead end.
7. You Get Shut Out Of Decision Making
Good bosses value employee input. You want your voice to be heard when it comes to important decisions. If the boss is not asking for your ideas, seek him or her out and arrange a meeting. If they are not receptive, refer to what I set earlier about finding a new place to work.
8. You Keep Hearing “Next Time”
This is the bane of the hyper-competent employee. “Next time,” bosses will say. Another common refrain is, “Once things have calmed down around here we'll find a new role for you.” My sense of the matter is, if they're relying so heavily on you, things may never calm down enough and there probably won't be a next time.
9. You Don't Connect With Colleagues
Perfectionism can be a curse. It’s not actually even recommended. Your flaws are natural and it’s not possible to eliminate them completely anyway. You might be great at your job, but if you are too unrelenting or uncompromising in how you complete your duties it can hurt your relationships with coworkers, damaging your potential for advancement. Be aware of how you're perceived and be willing to cut coworkers more slack than you cut yourself.
10. There's No Plan To Replace You
If you've been doing excellent work for several years and there's still not even been a discussion of how someone else could take on your role, that's the ultimate sign the company doesn't plan to promote you. Fortunately, this is an area where you can be proactive. Find someone with a role connected to yours and started training them. Show the bosses that there are people capable of filling your shoes if you move up the corporate ladder.