Monday, October 12, 2015
Being a Good Helper May Be Bad for Your Career
It's often advised that those seeking to make their mark at work should be willing to stick up their hand and volunteer for a project, lend a helping hand to others when it's needed and generally be the person who is willing to do what it takes to help the team succeed.
The reason, of course, is that by taking such action you will garner the notice of higher-ups. They will realize what a great employee you are, and then promote you and give you great projects.
There is a fine line that you must walk when taking such an approach. You don't want to be seen as the person who is "such a good helper." The person who can be called upon to work late nights and weekends, who will pitch in to do the most trivial work without complaint.
If you take on that role, be prepared to never move beyond the "helper" role. Why? Because when you're a helper, others don't see you as a leader. As John Kotter in the Harvard Business Review wrote about more than a decade ago, leaders are a different breed. They are the ones who help an organization cope with change -- and you're certainly never going to have the time to do that if you're organizing a PowerPoint for someone else.
Let me stress that there's nothing wrong with helping. By helping, you establish yourself as someone who is a team player, and you can learn a lot by assisting others.
Just make sure you don't go overboard. When you offer your help, also consider what you're getting out of it. Will making a Starbucks run really help you learn a new skill or make important alliances? Or, would it be better to offer to help a top team member who is working on a key project that is expected to make the company a lot of money?
If you can't make that distinction -- or you have difficulty saying "no" -- then you may need to re-evaluate your career path.