Emerging Leaders - Stuck! When you're too valuable to be promoted

Jo Miller

CEO, Women's Leadership Coaching Inc.

Cedar Rapids
Jo Miller CEO, Women's Leadership Coaching Inc. Cedar Rapids

Do you feel stuck in your current position? Have you recently asked for a promotion but were told you are “too valuable” in the role you have now?

Here’s what I think is going on between the lines of that comment: You’ve outgrown your current role, but your personal brand has not.

But it wasn’t always this way. I bet there was a time when your current role was a stretch for you, and you stepped up to the challenge and performed like a rock star. You became known for doing your job so well that you built up a strong “personal brand” and people know you as the go-to person for this particular job.

But you may have done too good of a job: You’ve now outgrown the role and you’re capable of doing more, but people around you haven’t caught on yet because they still see you in that particular role.

Now it’s time to think about the personal brand you want to be known for next and how you can better craft it to send the proper message. Here are two ways to achieve that:

Scale up your brand

Krista Thomas, vice president of product marketing at Rubicon Project, a Los Angeles-based advertising company, has built a career around helping tech companies build great brands as they scale up to serve a growing customer base. Her advice for any ambitious emerging leader is simple: “You must make your brand scalable.”

In other words, your personal brand needs to scale up at certain key points in your career, such as when you want to make the leap from individual contributor to team leader or from manager to executive. If it doesn’t, people still will perceive you the way they always have and your career growth will stall.

Here are some questions to think about when it comes to scaling up your brand:

• What role would you like to be in two years from today?

• What brand will you need to build now to get there?

• What are the competencies of your next role that distinguish it from your current job?

• Which of those competencies can you demonstrate now?

Be replaceable


Here’s a final thought to keep in mind. According to talent development expert Robert F. Solomon, “If you cannot be replaced you cannot be promoted. Your job can be expanded and you can take on additional responsibilities within your current pay band, but if you take up ‘permanent residence’ in a position, you’ll miss a lot of career growth opportunities.”

But don’t forget what you’ve been taught along the way, which is to do your best at every opportunity for the good of your team and your organization.

So don’t be that individual who climbs the ladder, kicks the ladder away and lets it land on everyone else. Think about how to develop other leaders all around you as you scale up how you’re perceived, reinvent your brand and lift others up as you climb.

• Jo Miller is founding editor of BeLeaderly.com and CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc.; @jo_miller



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