Why you can be the absolute best in your job and still have a mediocre career

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Why you can be the absolute best in your job and still have a mediocre career

The best career advice that was ever given to me? Become outstanding in your job and make yourself indispensable. Make yourself so essential in the eyes of your boss, organization and clients, that the thought of you leaving will immediately raise red flags throughout the organization.

It was also the worst career advice ever given to me. Here is why.

The skills required to become the absolute best and indispensable in your current job often stand in the way of the skills needed to expand, move out of the comfort zone and take giant steps towards your next job.

What has got you here, will no longer get you there. For instance, you often can not rely on your existing group of supporting people to get a new and better job. You need to build a new support group. This requires a different use of your time and your energy.

The best way to rapidly advance your career is therefore counter intuitive: focus your energy on finding ways to ensure that your presence is less and less required to do the job you were hired to do. This is the difference between working in your job and working on your job: the less you do, the more successful you will be.

For example, if you are an engineer, responsible for trouble shooting a chemical plant, look for ways to automate and systemize whatever you do. Because if you do this, three very interesting things will happen:

Automation and systemization can often easily be copied to other parts of the company. Instead of supporting one plant, all of a sudden you add much more value by helping multiple plants at the same time.

You will free up time and energy which can then be focused on doing other activities. These activities might not be part of your current job, but can nevertheless be much more valuable to the organization.

You will gain skills and experience which are essential to prepare yourself to move to your next job. In this example, driving an automation project to other parts of the organization will help you nicely to gain experience as a project leader and a manager.

High Performance starts with a shift in thinking: instead of spending your time and energy to become better and better at your current job, your focus must turn to finding different ways where your presence is less and less required to do the job you were hired to do. You know that you have succeeded when you have taken yourself out of the job equation: the litmus test is that no one needs to take over your position at the moment you decide to move to a different job.

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